Thursday, February 28, 2013

Listerine and Shaving Cream Foot Treatment

In case you did not know, I love finding new uses for everyday products that are in my home.  I found this on Pinterest about treating dry, cracked feet . I had to try this.  My February feet are a fright.  Sandal season is around the corner (even though it is currently snowing) and my feet were so bad I was embarrassed to get a pedicure.  I will spare you the before photo, because I value my readers and do not want you to stop visiting my blog.  :) 

The two magic ingredients Listerine and shaving cream.  I know it is hard to believe.

1.  Combine equal parts of Listerine and water (I used 1 cup of each) and pour over a hand towel in a wash basin.
2.  Rub the shaving cream onto your feet. Wrap your feet in the towel.

Notice my legs are about the same shade as the hand towel.  My husband pointed this out to me.

3.  Sit with feet wrapped for 30 minutes.  Your feet will feel warm and tingly.
4.  Unwrap feet and rub off shaving cream with the towel.  Apply lotion.   

My feet were so soft and felt incredible.  I have purchased many lotions and potions over the years and the results did not even come close to this treatment.  I think I may make this a weekly event.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Making Yogurt in a Crockpot

I don't want you to think I have turned into a Birkenstock wearing, hemp loving hippie freak, but I was intrigued by something I saw while reading an article claiming "new ways to save $400 a month".  Making your own yogurt can save you money.  Never saw that one coming! 

Reading about making my own yogurt repulsed me.  Why would I willingly grow bacteria in my kitchen, in a rather large petri dish?  Why would I let food sit on my counter for over 8 hours at room temperature and then voluntarily eat it?  Why?  Maybe I needed some adventure in my life.  I had an extra half gallon of milk in the refrigerator calling my name.  It sounded like a win win situation, yogurt so delicious and I could save money.  The worse case scenario would be me admitted to the hospital a victim of self-inflicted food poisoning. 

Like many people, I am a fan of Greek style yogurt.  In case you are not aware, "Greek Style" yogurt is nothing more than regular yogurt that has been strained to remove the whey (liquid).  Are you shocked that the "Greek " yogurt that retails for up to $1.50 per 6 ounce container is actually regular yogurt in disguise?  Yes, I had been a victim of the trickery.  I researched a couple of recipes and I made yogurt at home.  It was delicious.  I am alive and did not become a food poisoning victim.  My 9 year old/ food critic said "This yogurt tastes better than the yogurt from the store".  "Can you make strawberry yogurt"?  Looks like I will be making yogurt often. Yogurt making is not labor intensive, but it is time consuming.  I would recommend making yogurt when you will be home all day.  This recipe was used as a guide. I did make some changes. The cost per 6 ounce serving came to $0.28 on this vanilla yogurt. 

Pour a half gallon of milk into your crock pot.  I used 1/2 percent milk.  Turn your crock pot on high and heat the milk until it reaches 180F.  Depending on your crock pot this could take 2-3 hours. 

I recommend using a thermometer to get a precise temperature. 

When the milk reaches 180F, it will start to look foamy.  Remove the crock from the heating element and cool at room temperature to 120F.  Leave the crock pot on for now.

I decided to make vanilla yogurt sweetened with agave nectar.  The yogurt is used for the active and live cultures.
Make sure your yogurt has live and active cultures listed.

Mix 1 cup of the 120F milk with the vanilla, agave nectar and yogurt.

Pour the yogurt mixture into the milk and stir.  Place the crock back into the heating element.

Unplug your crock pot and wrap it in a blank or large beach towel to keep it warm.

Keep the wrapped crock pot in a draft free location for 8-12 hours.  Yes, on the counter and unrefrigerated. I went out for the evening.
This is what I found at 1:45am, when I returned home. You can refrigerate at this time for regular yogurt.

Line a strainer with cheesecloth, coffee filters, or thick paper towels and place over a bowl. Pour in the yogurt and place in the refrigerator.

This is what my yogurt looked like after 6 hours.  Remove from the strainer and place in a storage container.  Discard the whey (liquid).
Very thick and creamy.
Individual serving size.


Crock Pot Yogurt

1/2 gallon of milk (I used 1/2 percent)
1 6-ounce container of plain yogurt with live and active cultures (I used plain fat free)
3 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 -1/3 cup agave nectar (I used 1/4 cup)

Pour milk into crock pot and heat to 180F.  This make take 2-3 hours.  Remove crock and let milk cool to 120F.  Mix yogurt, vanilla, and agave nectar in large measuring cup.  Add 1 cup of 120F milk to yogurt mixture and mix together.  Return mixture to crock pot.  Turn off crock pot and unplug.  Wrap crock pot in blanket and let sit in draft free area for 8-12 hours.  Unwrap and refrigerate.  Will keep for up to 2 weeks.

*For Greek yogurt:  Place yogurt in cheese cloth lined strainer placed on a bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.  Remove from strainer after 6 hours and place in storage container.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Potato Soup for the Winter Soul

It is cold and snowy again, so that means more comfort food. Cold weather makes me want to be warm on the inside and outside and nothing does that better than soup.  This is another quick and easy recipe using ingredients that are probably already in your home.  This soup can be ready in less than one hour including prep time.  Serve with a mixed green salad and you have a great meal with little effort.  I usually double this recipe because it is delicious and I like to have leftovers for lunch. The soup in the photo contains ham, because it was too cold and I was to lazy to make a trip to the store for bacon. If you would like to substitute ham for bacon, add 1/2 cup of diced ham and 2 tablespoons of olive oil while sauteing the vegetable mixture, but leave the ham in for the entire cooking process.

  Good to the last spoonful.

Potato Soup (serves 4)

8-10 slices of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled, reserve 2 tablespoons of drippings
1 small onion, finely diced
1 rib of celery, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 t dried basil
1/2 t seasoned salt
3 T flour
3 cups chicken broth
2 potatoes cut into small cubes
dash of hot sauce (optional)
1/2-1 cup cream (milk can be used, but will result in a thinner soup)
Garnish with sour cream, cheddar cheese, chopped chives, and crumbled bacon if desired.

Cook bacon until crisp, remove from pan and crumble.  Reserve 2 tablespoon of bacon drippings and saute onion, celery, and carrot until onion is translucent.  Add garlic, seasoned salt, and basil. Add flour and stir to make a paste.  Gradually stir in chicken broth a little at a time to incorporate into vegetable mixture. Bring to a boil and add potatoes. Reduce heat and cook until potatoes are tender. about 20- 30 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in cream, hot sauce, and bacon. Garnishes can be added, if desired. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bolognese Sauce

I know everyone is trying to be healthy, but who does not love comfort food during the cold, dreary days of winter?  This is a recipe that I have tweaked over the years.  You probably have all of the ingredients on hand.  That is why it has become my go to recipe when I don't know what to make for dinner. I personally think that this sauce tastes better after being chilled and reheated. Make it today, refrigerate, and reheat in the crockpot tomorrow. It also freezes very well. You will never buy pasta sauce in a jar again!

Bolognese Sauce

1 onion, finely chopped
1 rib of celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb of ground beef chuck (or a mixture of beef and pork)
1/2 cup dry white wine (chardonnay is great) water or broth can be substituted
1/2 cup milk
2T tomato paste mixed with 1 1/2 cups beef broth
28 oz can of tomato puree or crushed tomatoes
1 T dried basil
1/4 -1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound of pasta, cooked

Saute onion, celery, and carrots in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until onions are translucent.  Add beef, stir and break up lumps and cook until browned.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add garlic.  Pour in wine to deglaze the pan.  Add milk, tomatoes, broth, basil, and pepper flakes.  Cook partially covered for at least 2 hours.  Serve over pasta with fresh Parmesan cheese.

*For crock pot cooking
Add to crock pot after adding tomato mixture and simmer for 4-6 hours on low.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Wine Bottle Windchimes

Many months ago I started collecting wine and liquor bottles from friends and relatives after seeing some unique crafts on Pinterest using wine bottles.  I finally decided it was time to complete a couple of projects.  My husband threatening to put the bottles to the curb for the recycling truck may have possibly had something to do with completion of the project.  I was storing the bottles in "Garage Mahal" and obviously my husband feels the bottles have overstayed their welcome.

One of many boxes in "Garage Mahal".
No, I do not have a problem.  I did have some help.

 I removed all of the labels. You can see my post about adhesive remover.  It works like a charm.

I scored the bottles with my bottle cutter and then followed the directions dipping the bottle in boiling water for 5 seconds and then dipping in cold water for 5 seconds.

Sometimes the bottles just split exactly where they are scored and sometimes not so much. Notice that there are fewer bottles then when I started.

I strung the bottles together with nylon cord and wood beads.
I wish the sun had been shining for these photos.
This was the first wind chime I made this fall from a bottle of tequila.

I think a colorful bottle tree may appear in the garden this summer.  

Friday, February 15, 2013

Maid Wanted

The question from my nine year old daughter Jade this morning was "How old do I have to be to hire a maid"?  This was in response to my asking her to make her bed and clean her room.  Jade has always had an issue with cleaning.  Grandma and Grandpa bought her a pop-up book several years ago to explain the process.  It did not work.  Notice how the book is prominently displayed on her bookshelf with other junk.

  Jade has also made the proclamation that she only makes her bed on holidays.  I then went on the internet and found a website that lists several holidays for every day of the year.  This worked for several months, until she caught on to my sneaky trick.  Happy Flossing Day and Talk Like A Pirate Day are not widely celebrated.  This is typical bed making for Jade.  Do you see the pillows and stuffed animals that should be on top of the bed?  Notice the clean laundry that was supposed to be put away that is now either unfolded or mingling with dirty clothing.
Drawers are never closed and any horizontal surface is a place to pile her "treasures". These photos were not doctored for this blog.  This is a typical day of messiness.
In response to Jade's question about hiring a maid, I have told her that she can hire me to clean her room for the going rate of $10 per hour.  I felt that was a fair amount for the number of hours it will take.  Jade counter offered with $5 per hour.  I did inform her that minimum wage is currently $7.40 per hour.  We are still negotiating and I expect it will last until she leaves for college.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Fifty Shades of Crazy

If you have not had the pleasure of your parent's growing old, you will not appreciate this post.  I am a loving daughter who comes from a family with a sense of humor.  Humor is what helps you cope with the situations you can not control in life.  As I write this, Mom is under observation at the hospital.
Let me give you the back story on my parents.  My Mom and Dad (maybe I should refer to them as Betty and Rob to protect their identities) have been married for 48 years.  Betty's health has declined over the past couple of years due to TIA's "mini-strokes" and a stroke she suffered one year ago.  The strokes have fortunately left Betty with speech and mobility intact, but she has issues with short term memory.  Betty has always been the one to take care of everything, but roles have now shifted.  Rob is a kind and loving man.  Rob has a part-time retirement job driving a hearst for a local funeral home.  Yes, it is a strange job, but Rob enjoys it.  Now the story begins. 

Mom decides to take a bath in her Jacuzzi tub and when she has finished bathing is unable to step out of the tub.  Dad tries to help her out of the tub, but is unsuccessful.  Mom is unable to move her legs and pull herself out of the tub.  A call is placed to 911 and paramedics and firemen arrive to extracate Mom from the tub.  (It is OK to laugh.)  Mom laughed in the emergency room as she told me about the sleeve the rescue personnel used to remove her from the tub. Mom said it reminded her of the slings they use to rescue sick whales or dolphins. 
( I know this is what you are picturing in your mind.) 

After taking Mom's vital signs, the paramedics determined that she was suffering from dehydration and low oxygen levels and trasnported her to the emergency room for further evaluation.  While Mom is receiving the standard battery of tests, Dad becomes anxious and impatient.  Dad claims that the male nurse on duty told him that there is really nothing for Dad to do but wait, so it is OK to leave. I am sure the nurse meant go home and sleep, since it was almost 6:00 AM and he had been sitting in the emergency room since 2:00 AM.  Dad interpreted this to mean go home, call your daughters and go to work.  Did I mention all of this is taking place on my Mom's birthday? Yes, my Father chose to lead a funeral procession rather than sit at his wife's bedside in the emergency room on her birthday.  The craziest part of the story is that my parents requested that my mother be transported to a hospital where neither one of her physicians has privleges.

Yes, these are my parents. Fifty Shades of Crazy and I still love them. I am hoping the hospital is running a "Buy One Get One" promotion on MRI's, because Mom and Dad could both use one. If the fruit doesn't fall far from the tree, my daughters are in for a wild ride with me.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Caramel Corn

Valentine's Day is around the corner and sometimes you need a small gift to let someone know that you care or are thinking about them.  I had a gifting dilemma at Christmas and decided that Caramel Corn was the answer. Maybe caramel corn is the answer to a lot of life's problems. I have to be honest and say that until Christmas, I had not made caramel corn since probably 1983.  Let me tell you that it is as delicious as I remember. This is Cracker Jacks for grown-ups. The recipe is easy and delicious. Do not use microwave popcorn, because that is just wrong.  Pop your corn on the stove the old-fashioned way, it tastes so much better than microwave popcorn.  I bought a whirley poppper five years ago and use it at least twice a week to make popcorn

Melt the butter, sugar and corn syrup with the salt in a sauce pan.

Boil the mixture for 5 minutes.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the baking soda and vanilla. Stir to mix thoroughly.  Pour the caramel over the popcorn and bake for one hour.

This is the deliciousness that will come out of  your oven and delight your taste buds.

Package the caramel corn in a season appropriate container tied with ribbon. 

Caramel Corn

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 8 quarts popped popcorn, unsalted


Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.

Over medium heat, combine first 4 ingredients and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in baking soda and vanilla. Stir well. Pour over 8 quarts popped corn. Stir to coat well. Bake in large roaster or pan for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Spread on waxed paper to dry. Store in an airtight container.