Tuesday, August 30, 2011

On the Telly...

Do you get excited about the new fall television shows?

I used to, but here in the last few years, my TV-watching has dwindled greatly, not that I'm complaining. With less TV shows on my radar, I've gotten a heck of a lot more accomplished on sewing, reading, enjoying the outdoors, etc. And my eyes don't bug out nearly as much, haha...

Regardless, there are a few new shows that are going on my DVR schedule to try out. Here's hoping I don't get hooked on all of them so I can keep up my good television habits and not watch too much!

Zooey Deschanel? Yes, yes, and yes. The "New Girl" is looking good. (Is it sad that I recognized her dress in the promo picture as Anthro? Of course, it is.)

Folk music in a cave? Sign me up. "Bluegrass Underground" is supposed to premiere sometime in mid-September on PBS.

Retro and vintage -- right up my alley. I can't wait for "Pan Am" to start on ABC.

Storybook mixed with modern? Intriguing. Could be good, could be a flop. We'll see. But it's got Ginnifer Goodwin, and she's a fave, so surely it has a chance. "Once Upon a Time" starts in October on ABC.

Supposedly there is also a two-part reality show series in the works from TLC all about Sarah Palin's hair salon up north -- "Big Hair Alaska". I might tune in for that -- sounds entertaining to me!

Other returning shows I'm planning on checking out again, at least for a while:

"Gold Rush Alaska" (no air date yet for Season Two) -- my husband and I got hooked on this one for whatever reason

"Sister Wives" -- what can I say, the crazy polygamists suck me in every time. (Well, not really, just suck me in to their stupid TV shows, that's all.)

"The Fabulous Beekman Boys" -- please, PLEASE tell me this one is returning. I think they're pretty fabulous, and Polka Spot the Llama holds a little piece of my heart.

And last but CERTAINLY not least, I'm ready for January to get here so I can start watching "Masterpiece Theater" again! (Fingers crossed for the Downton Abbey Christmas special I've heard about, plus I've heard there will be a second season of regular episodes which supposedly just finished filming.) I'm a total convert, and "Masterpiece Theater" has turned into one of my absolute favorite parts of television.

So what are you planning on watching?

Makin' stuff.

Late yesterday afternoon I actually donned an apron (never happens) in preparation to make dinner, which coincidentally was a very cute full-length-down-to-my-ankles apron from Anthropologie (bargain bin). I only mention this because the whole time I was wearing the apron, I felt drafty in the back (since it was full frontal coverage), and it kept making me think of the scene from "The Parent Trap" (the original, please) in which Hayley Mills cuts the back of her twin's dress off as a prank. I thought that was kind of funny.

Anyway, I digress. Last night I made a deeeeeeeeelicious dinner from scratch. Emphasis on the deeeeeeeeeeelicious. I've never heard such whoopin' and hollerin' from my boys at the dinner table, all of whom proudly proclaimed how much they love my cookin'.

Put a fork in me and call me done.

It was all Pioneer Woman-style up in here last night with some o' this Peach Whiskey BBQ Chicken

and some o' those Smashed Potatoes.

It's safe to say that Pioneer Woman sure knows a thing or two about feedin' boys. And it's always a festive occasion when the Baptists get to take a trip to the liquor store for a big bottle of Jack Daniel's. Just sayin'.

Today I'm a-cookin' some Farm Chicks Granola,

which will hopefully be a delicious alternative spooned on top of vanilla yogurt instead of the usually offering of cold cereal for breakfast. Hopefully one or all of my boys will notice and heap some more lovin' on their mama. Either that or I'm keeping it all to myself. Yum.

And holy cow -- my house smells all sorts of awesome right now from that granola in the oven. Better than any Yankee candle, Scentsy, or other artificial smells. I wish I could bottle it up!

Anything good been cookin' lately in your kitchen?

*First image found via Google; second two images via the lovely Pioneer Woman; last image via Serena, the amazing Farm Chick

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Going green.

Saturday I took my first big step towards being a "greener" household.

I made my own liquid laundry detergent. Boo-yah. I sho' did.

Via Pinterest, I found this brilliant tutorial. Thank goodness I thought to half the recipe my first time. I was unsure if all the ingredients (including the water) would fit in my big pot, so I took the safe route and only made a half batch. Sure enough, I was right, and from now on, I will make this stuff in half batches.

I found both the Borax and the Arm & Hammer super washing soda in my trusty Wal-Mart Supercenter (look on the bottom or top shelves if you don't find it at first). I had a bar of soap in my arsenal already, so I just used it. It was some fancy-schmancy pinky-purple bar of French soap, which made my liquid laundry detergent a pretty pale pink color. Ooh-la-la. I also took the time to read through ALL of the comments on the tutorial blog post, just in case there were any extra tips. Sure enough, many people commented to use only half a bar of soap instead of a full bar. Since my fancy-schmancy soap was a smaller square-ish size, I considered it equal to a regular half bar of soap.

The hardest step in all of this is the grating. I don't have a stand-up grater, so my arms definitely got tired grating my bar of soap. It did kind of give me a sense of Pioneer Woman (not the Ree Drummond-variety, but the real deal like my grandma was who was born in Indian Territory) grating that soap. I then halved my soap shavings, saving part of it for when I make another batch on down the road.

Another smart thing I did (imagine that) was to save my last two liquid laundry detergent containers. Ah, recycling at it's finest. Plus, the cap can be used as a measuring cup as it's capacity is a 1/2 cup just like this recipe calls for. I know how to use my noggin every once in a while...

If you make this laundry detergent, keep in mind three things:

1. Yes, it will coagulate (watch out, big word), meaning it will thicken up and get quite gelatinous. When I made this, I had enough to fill one jug completely and another jug 1/4 full (remember, I made a half batch). Next time I make it I will think ahead and pour both of them half full, giving me room to shake them up before pouring it out if they are really thick. So, don't be afraid if your batch turns out really thick. You can still use it, and most of the comments said their batches were pretty thick so it is completely normal.

2. This does not produce suds. (Suds do not necessarily equal "clean".) This was hard for me to grasp at first, but now I am a couple of loads in and believing in the magic.

3. My batch turned out very lightly scented. Since I use dryer sheets (I tear mine in half to make the box last twice as long), I don't need the detergent to scent my clothes because they end up smelling like whatever dryer sheet I throw in there. I'm pretty sure this detergent alone will not leave much of a scent on your clothes. When I used store-bought liquid laundry detergent, I usually went for the "free" versions without the scents or dyes anyway.

According to the tutorial, this liquid laundry detergent is a huge money-saver. For the $6 spent on a box of Borax and a box of Arm & Hammer super washing soda, this apparently will make enough detergent to clean approximately 576 loads. (I'm guessing it might make less for me since I never feel like I get as many loads as what they say on regular laundry detergent anyway.) Regardless, considering I normally spend $6 on one container of All (or Tide or whatever) that probably gets me somewhere around 50 loads, this is pure gold. You don't have to be a math genius to know that ends up costing mere pennies per load. And better for the environment to boot. And maybe better for your clothes as well since it doesn't have all the artificial crap in it.

So, do you think you'll try it out?

Next up for me: homemade dishwashing detergent, which by the way also uses Borax and Arm & Hammer super washing soda. (And hello, did you know you can use plain ol' white vinegar for rinse aid? Genius, I tell ya'.)

I'm loving this "green" stuff. Watch out, tree huggers, I'm comin' your way!

{Edited to add: I also just read about the benefits of white distilled vinegar in the laundry, so I am adding 1/2 cup to every load (there is a spot in my washing machine I can pour it in to be released during the rinse cycle). Apparently it not only whitens whites and brightens brights (ah, I am a poet), but it also softens the laundry and eliminates static cling. So maybe I can stop using the dryer sheets after all and switch to lavender sachets to scent my laundry...hmmm....}

**I do not have a high efficiency washing machine, nor do I have a front-loader. You should probably read through all the comments on the tutorial blog post to see if it would work in either of those (I think I remember reading that it would).

Monday, August 22, 2011

End o' summer. Thank the good Lord above.

Today marks the first day of kindergarten, first grade, and fifth grade for my boys. I love those boys somethin' fierce, but I cannot lie. I am ECSTATIC to have a quiet house for a couple of hours to myself. It's plain heaven.

So how did we do on our Summer Bucket List?

Out of 48* items, we checked off 41. Not too shabby.

I'm usually a perfectionist and would aim for success being measured in checking off all 48 items, but a month or so ago, I decided, screw it, we'll just get done what we get done.

A much better perspective if you ask me.

One of the most embarrassing items to not be checked off the list?

Yep, that would be "start piano lessons". Hello, I have a piano degree. In "piano pedagogy", no less (translates to: piano teacher). However, in my defense, I did go out and purchase books for everyone, and we are starting this week, perfect timing with the start of school. So we barely missed this one.

Other items not crossed off?

Ice cream truck, go figure. It was a rarity to hear one coming down our street, and when we did, it was not good timing. Dang.
Ears 'n Beers: the party we usually do with neighbors. Totally missed the boat on that one this year.
Mini Golf -- too dang hot, and by the end of the summer, watching my three boys whack each other with metal rods didn't sound too appealing to me.
Farmer's Market: we obviously didn't make it on that one either.
Make a secret clubhouse? We got halfway there, clearing out the cubbyhole closet in the boys' room, so at least it's ready when we decide to do it. Maybe that would be a good idea for a snow day.
No training wheels -- too dang hot here to ride bikes. With most of our summer between 100-115 every stinkin' day, we didn't spend as much time outside as we would have liked. C'est la vie.

I also had to alter a couple of items. With the extreme, record-breaking heat we experienced this summer, we didn't have but a few fireflies, and it was very early in the summer that I even saw them. But for whatever reason, the dragonflies flocked to our yard instead. So I changed "catch fireflies" to "watch dragonflies". And I also had it on the list for us to visit the Oklahoma City Lego Store. On our trip to Minnesota, we took the boys to the much bigger Mall of America Lego Store instead.

Tell me, did you make a Summer Bucket List? Did you cross off many items? I just have to add, while I have been very flattered at the compliments about being a good mom by making our list, the gosh-darn truth is that I knew I NEEDED the list to survive the summer with three boys. If it wasn't for the list, this summer would have been anything but intentional in filling up with lots of fun things. Thank goodness for the Summer Bucket List!

*There were originally 49 items, but after analyzing "our" skillz at the roller rink, I knew there was no way "we" were all ready for the ice skating rink, so I promptly crossed it off.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Can YOUR dog do this?

My mom is a dancing queen. No, really. She started taking dance lessons after my dad passed away, and she's been going at it ever since. She's really, really good. Anyway, she definitely knows a good dancer when she sees one, and she showed me this YouTube video. If you've got kids, you'll want to let them watch it. My boys love it, and they think we need to teach Mercy a few dance steps...

Friday, August 5, 2011

For the love of food.

I feel that it would actually be considered cruel for me to withhold this deliciousness from you.

This recipe* came to me via Pinterest, a source I have been wholly utilizing these days in the nightly battle of wondering what in the heck I am going to make for dinner. Pinterest has not disappointed me yet with the recipes I've been trying. De-lish.

When we ate this last night, I was convinced it was the best sauce I have ever eaten. (And I've gotten around, let me tell you, eaten at lots of amazing restaurants across the country.) When I ate the leftovers for lunch today, I knew for sure that it is indeed the best sauce I have ever had. In fact, my three boys gobbled it up faster than any meal I've seen them eat before.

So don't delay. Make this for your family. It makes a lot, so be sure and freeze part of it so you can enjoy it later without the work.

And if you really love your family, buy one of those cheap little boxes of Jiffy pie crust mix and follow the recipe on the box for cherry pie. Good stuff, folks, good stuff.

*I followed the recipe exactly, using all Great Value brand cans of sauce and tomato paste from ye' old WalMart, but for the diced tomatoes, I used what I had on hand -- two cans of Del Monte diced tomatoes with basil and oregano, and one can of Muir Glen fire roasted diced tomatoes, also found at ye' old WalMart. I have no idea if it would matter what I used, but I thought I would just let you know.