Thursday, July 30, 2015

Cloth Napkins

I spend far more time than I probably should on Pinterest.  In my defense, I have come across some really great ideas that have sparked my creativity.  This is one of those ideas.  So, I was on Pinterest looking for tips on being frugal and in one of the little squares a picture for cloth napkins appeared.  I clicked the link, became more interested and actively searched for more pins on napkins.  In just a few short minutes I was inspired!

I walked to my craft room and dug through my fabric, some of which had been sitting there for close to 10 years.   The fabrics I chose appear to be cotton blends.  Then I got out my pathetically dull scissors and went to town.  I cut up long lengths of fabric into napkin-sized squares.  I did this by using another cloth napkin that I had in the closet as a guide. I ended up with over 20 rectangular pieces of fabric that would soon be napkins.

Next, I ironed and pinned down the seams so that they would be easy to sew.  I folded them so that no rough edges would show.

Then I took out my sewing machine, which buy the way, I think is the easiest machine ever!  The task I have the most trouble with is the bobbin, and this bobbin threads automatically after you load it and begin sewing.  Major score!  Anyway, I began sewing up the edges and these pretty napkins are the result.

Unfortunately I did not do a step-by-step tutorial.  I'm still a little bit of a newbie at sewing.  In the

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Recipe - Lemon Blueberry Cake

Lemon Blueberry Cake

This recipe was requested after I brought it to a potluck party. It's modified from a recipe in my mom's cookbook. The glaze is a halved recipe from

Lemon Blueberry Cake


1 box lemon cake mix
4 eggs
1/2 cup water
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup oil
1 cup blueberries

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Family Vacation

Wacky family picture

Sometimes I wonder if it's worth the disruption to go on a family vacation.  I'm content to sit here in my house and let the kids swim in our small pool.  They are happy to do that.  I'm happy to go on day trips and spend the day nearby.  The kids probably wouldn't mind.  I wonder if all the money and time and effort are worth it.  I think about the years past and all the trouble with public bathrooms and how one child won't go unless it's a private, single stall.  I remember whining car rides to our destination.  I think about the grumpiness caused by lack of sleep and the complaints about food because things just aren't as convenient in a hotel.  I think about the begging and crying and fighting.  It all makes me want to stay home!

Then I stop for a second and reflect.  I call to mind the fun and excitement, and the look in my kids' eyes when they arrive at these new places full of wonder.  I remember my son finally glancing up from his tablet to see the mountains in front of us and saying, "wow".

Go ahead and tell me that egg isn't creepy.  I dare you.
I think about seeing my daughter reel with joy over all the rides at the park especially the roller coaster, even though she assured me one time on that was certainly enough.  I fix in my mind the moments of her learning to swim in the hotel pool only to beam with excitement at how she learned a new skill.

I remember getting to laugh with my husband over the sheer ridiculousness of my children's behavior.  (Sometimes, I will tell you, this is the best option.  Even though the laughing might make the child mad, it throws them off a bit and laughing it certainly feels better than screaming.)

After that I consider my experiences as a kid going to new places and discovering new things.  I remember New Hampshire and how we stayed in the Seven Dwarfs Motel.  My parents may recall it as the craziest vacation ever, but I look back at it with great fondness.  I remember Story Land and even if it was raining, we still got to ride the train.  We rode the Yule Log at Santa's Village and saw the crazy old wolf man from Clark's Trading Post.

I remember how good the tap water in New Hampshire tasted because it came right from the mountains.  I think back at seeing the mountains and the flowing streams and being in awe the same way my kids were now in awe.

I remember our trip to Disney when there were cockroaches in our room and our hotel got rented out to another family while we visited family for a couple days.  As a kid, it didn't matter to me because everything else that happened far exceeded stupid bugs and dumb hotels.  I got to see Epcot in it's infancy.

I remember camping and how we had a three room tent, which was super awesome.  I remember burning my hand on a hot rock that looked cool to me.  I think about sitting around the campfire and sleeping on the ground.

So why do we do family vacations?  We do them because the good far outweighs the bad.  We do them because they are fun and mostly happy (even though the other hotel patrons just heard me yell at my kids for the ninetieth to stop fighting).  When the kids are young, these trips are not really "vacations" but memory makers.  They are full of stress and whining and cold showers and grumpy days.  But they are also full of magic and memory and fun and excitement.  Is it worth the effort?  Definitely.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Simple Iced Tea

Image by Pippalunacy
I almost feel silly writing a recipe for this, but I figure some people out there might really enjoy fresh brewed iced tea and not know how to make it themselves.  It's super simple and can be modified according to your taste preferences.

Simple Iced Tea


5 tea bags
boiling water
sweetener (optional)
lemon (optional)

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Make Your Own Deodorant

I know, I know….

It sounds weird.

The deodorant I use daily

I make my own deodorant.  Some do-it-yourself stuff I try and quickly abandon.  Some things I try and later abandon because even though they are pretty good, they take a quite a bit of effort.  Other do-it-yourself projects are definite winners. This deodorant is a winner.  Although it's not as easy as picking up a stick at the store, is very much worth the effort.

I've been using it for about five or six years and I'll never go back.  The recipe is from my mom.  I don't know where she got it, but I am posting it below. 

It is not an antiperspirant but I don't prefer one anyway.  Before I used this I was using a commercial deodorant product made for men which I had to reapply on hot days.  This product prevents odor all day, even in the heat.  I don't add scent, but I know others who will add a few drops of essential oil.  My skin is very sensitive and I would rather keep the recipe as simple as possible.

As an added bonus this deodorant is free of nasty chemicals so it won't cause any unwanted side effects. 

Make-Your-Own Deodorant


6 Tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil*
2 Tablespoons beeswax- grated or pellets
1/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup arrowroot powder - can substitute cornstarch, though I have not

Melt coconut oil and beeswax on low heat in a small saucepan.  Remove from heat and stir in baking soda and arrowroot powder.

Pour into a shallow, wide-mouthed container or into old deodorant dispensers.  To use, scoop a small amount onto finger and spread evenly on underarm.  Use sparingly, a little goes a long way.

I double the recipe and it lasts me six months or more.  Only a small amount equal to less than a quarter teaspoon is needed each day.  So in addition to being a great deodorant, it's also very cheap!

Also as a note, this all-natural product is softer in the summer and harder in the winter.  This is due to the melting point of coconut oil being 76 degrees.  It does not become a soupy mess in the summer, it's just more like paste.  

*Extra virgin coconut oil is a key ingredient.  Expeller pressed coconut oil will not eliminate odor.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

My Thoughts on Artificial Sweeteners

You hear it everywhere.  Artificial sweeteners are bad for you.  You should avoid them at all cost.  They are going to make you fat.  They are going to give you cancer.  Well, I'm not sure about any of that, but I can give you my opinion on a few that are currently available.

This is my "artificial" sweetener of choice.  Though it's not technically artificial, I wouldn't exactly say that it's natural in most of the forms in which it is consumed.  Personally, I use granulated stevia, which definitely has some not so natural ingredients such as maltodextrin.  I also use a liquid form with minimal ingredients which appear to be natural.  I feel very good about using stevia.  I let my children use it and it helps me to reduce the calories I consume.  

There are some drawbacks to stevia.  I like it in tea, but for coffee, it really is second rate.  It's great to sweeten cold beverages such as lemonade instead of sugar and it's good in yogurt, but for baking just skip it.  

I recommend stevia as a good option for people wishing to use a calorie free sweetener.

Vitacost stevia extract
Great Value stevia

This product is found in most diet sodas and virtually all commercial chewing gum, even in gum with sugar.  I usually stay away from aspartame.  I admit to having some in diet soda and chewing gum occasion, but if I drink more than one beverage containing aspartameI get headaches.  This does make me wonder what else is going on in my body as a result of consuming it.  

I have read that aspartame changes to formaldehyde at 86 degrees.  I cannot personally verify this, but it's just one more reason to limit consumption of it.  Supposedly there are government conspiracies surrounding the approval of aspartame as well. While I cannot confirm this either, I would not be surprised if it were true.  

In the past few years I've noticed that aspartame is making a slow retreat from the grocery store shelves.  Many of the items that used to contain it are switching to sucralose.  

For all intents and purposes, I cannot recommend aspartame as a calorie-free sweetener.


I admit I know very little about saccharine.  I do remember at some point many years ago, the warning that it caused cancer in lab rats was removed from its label.  It was said that it was not a good predictor of what it did in humans.

I don't really care for the taste of saccharine and have not purchased it.  It has mostly faded into the background, but you can find it at church coffee hours and in the hands of folks who grew up with it.  We all have a hard time letting go of what we like, so if you like saccharine, go for it.  I'm not sure if it's bad or if it's harmless.  If you like the taste, you decide.

Sweet'n Low

Sucralose is likely one of the most popular sweeteners at this time.  Supposedly it is made from chlorinating sugar.  Some people are very touchy about this fact.  They do not want chlorine entering their systems.  I can't say I blame them.  Some say Sucralose kills our intestinal flora.  This is another fact for which I have no proof.

I do not make a habit of purchasing Sucralose or consuming large doses of it, however I don't intentionally avoid it.  If I'm out and I need my tea sweetened, I use this.  If I want a soda, I prefer this as the sweetener.  Sucralose does not appear to give me any negative physical symptoms such as headaches.  It helps me to keep my calories down and it tastes better in coffee than stevia.  I don't think it's an all natural choice and perhaps it's not great for our bodies.  I personally use it on occasion.  

When it comes to low calorie baking, Sucralose is the only no calorie sweetener I know of that will get the job done decently.  This is one positive thing about it.

Look up the facts for yourself.  There is a lot of information out there.  You decide.


Monk Fruit Sweetener
This a newer sweetener on the scene.  It has been well known in health food circles for some time, but I have only seen it on shelves for the past few years.  Many of the boxes I've seen have also made it to the clearance shelf in these past few years.  

Monk fruit sweetener is made from the extract of the Monk or Lo Han fruit, which is apparently very sweet and low in calories.  The extract is then treated much like stevia and put into a liquid form or bound with a bulking agent such as maltodextrin.  

I like the taste of this sweetener.  It has less of that artificial taste that stevia ironically has.  It is good in coffee and other hot beverages.  I have not baked with it, so I cannot attest to it's baking properties, but I'm guessing it would fall flat.  

Monk Fruit in the Raw
Nectresse, by the makers of Splenda

So there you have it, my take on artificial sweeteners.  Like I mentioned earlier, there is a ton of information out there, some valid, some overly hyped.  Just google it and you'll see.  These are the conclusions I've come to after many years of reading and tasting.  In the end, though, the choice is up to you.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Family Recipe - Spinach Bread

Here is a tried-and-true family recipe from my mom's recipe collection!  

We love Spinach Bread, and while it's not exactly low in calories, it DOES contain spinach.  My mom used to make this bread quite often for parties.  Minutes after setting out a fresh platter only crumbs were left behind.  So, if you want to bring a highly requested recipe to your next get-together, try Spinach Bread and surely you will not be disappointed.

Spinach Bread


1 loaf French Bread (Italian is good, too)
1 box frozen creamed spinach
3 oz. cream cheese
10 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, grated