Meatless Monday: Everyday Red Lentils

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I first saw this recipe on The Dr. Oz Show.  (Just ask Hubby about Dr. Oz 😀 )  I became addicted to interested in the show when Munchkin was a newborn.  He was a frequent and lengthy nurser, and in the beginning, I was able to pass the time enjoying daytime TV.  (Once he got more aware of his surroundings, around 3 months or so, I had to stop multitasking with anything that made noise.)

Let me just tell you that daytime TV is not as exciting as I thought it would be.  All of the morning shows feature the same circuit of celebrities promoting their latest work.  But, The Dr. Oz Show, and The Ellen Degeneres show of course, stayed on my list.  I like how short each segment is, so I get the overview of a topic; then, I can hit “Pause” and move on to something else.  While a lot of the topics are in one ear and out the other, I do enjoy hearing the latest in health and nutrition, whether or not I subscribe to the latest trend.

So, I saw this recipe on the show, and it looked amazing.  It’s supposedly a go-to staple in Indian cooking.  However, Indian food has always puzzled me.  We don’t eat a lot of Indian food.  (My first experience with Indian food was disappointing, and it took many years for me to give it another try.)  If I’m not familiar with it in a restaurant, how am I supposed to cook it at home?  I finally worked up the nerve to try this out, and was I ever surprised.  It really was easy.  (Don’t let the multiple steps fool you.) And, it really was delicious!  Even Hubby approved!  Hubby is a good sport and will eat just about anything I make.  We usually just qualify our approval of a dish with whether or not we would want to eat it again.  If the answer is no, we toss the recipe.  Ironically, tonight I mentioned that I thought it was missing a little something – as in, maybe I didn’t put enough salt in at the end.  Hubby replied, “Yeah, like some chicken!”  😀  Chicken, or any other meat for that matter, WOULD make a great addition if you’re looking for something a little heartier (and not on Meatless Monday 😉 ).  Another great addition would be some naan or roti bread fresh out of the oven!

Everyday Red Lentils

as seen on The Dr. Oz Show, my comments in red


  • 1 cup masoor dal red lentils, picked through for stones
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 (1/2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 serrano chile, sliced in 1/2, optional
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds (I used ground yellow mustard)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder (generous amount)
  • 1/2 tsp paprika or bafaat powder (I used Indian masala – my paprika was nowhere to be found; pantry organization is on another list.  🙂   Also, this ingredient is included on Food Network’s version of this recipe.  I’ll explain this discrepancy in a later post.)
  • Handful fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil


For the lentils: Put the lentils in a strainer and rinse them under running water. Add them to a bowl, cover with water and let soak for 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine 2 cups of water, the onions, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, chile, if using, and the lentils. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Skim any scum from the surface. Lower the heat, cover the pot with a lid and gently simmer until the lentils are tender, almost translucent, and almost falling apart, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Whisk the lentils, releasing its natural starch, and mash some of them so the mixture becomes thick. Add salt, to taste.

For the tempering oil (bagaar): In a small bowl, combine the cumin and mustard seeds. In another bowl, combine the spice powders. Have all the ingredients ready because this will move very fast!

In a small skillet, over a medium-high flame, warm 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add seeds and immediately cover. Add the spices. Don’t let them burn. The mixture should bloom for about 30 seconds, no more.

Pour the oil mixture into the lentils, standing back so you don’t get hurt when the mixture splutters. Stir to combine. Transfer the lentils to a serving dish and garnish with cilantro.

Tonight, I am serving the lentils with a side of Ina Garten’s String Beans with Shallots.


  • 1 pound French string beans (haricots verts), ends removed
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 3 large shallots, large-diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Blanch the string beans in a large pot of boiling salted water for 1 1/2 minutes only. Drain immediately and immerse in a bowl of ice water.

Heat the butter and oil in a very large saute pan (12-inch diameter) or large pot and saute the shallots on medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, tossing occasionally, until lightly browned. Drain the string beans and add to the shallots with 1/2 teaspoon salt and the pepper, tossing well. Heat only until the beans are hot.  (Make sure to drizzle ALL of the oil and butter when serving!)

If you’re using regular string beans, blanch them for about 3 minutes, until they’re crisp-tender.
Everyday Red Lentils with

Everyday Red Lentils and String Beans with Shallots

Bon appétit!

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TGIT: It’s Scandalous!

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Scandal is back!  Oh, how I love this show!  Hubby and I have been watching since Season 1, and we are hooked.  We record the show, but we always watch it on Thursdays, no matter how late it is.  No matter how many times we have to hit pause to tend to a teething Munchkin.  If you haven’t yet checked it out, you really should.  (BET runs marathons all the time!)  There really is something for everyone in this show.

Now, all you Gladiators know that to set the mood for a Scandal viewing, you need two things:  Red Wine and Popcorn!  I do love movie theater popcorn, but who really enjoys having greasy butter all over your fingers long after the bowl is empty?  At home, I prefer to use other ingredients for flavor.  We received a stovetop popper as a wedding gift, and it makes the best popcorn!  Seriously, if you’re still microwaving a certain blue bag, you’re missing out.  (You can also pop kernels in the microwave using a brown lunch bag.  Yes, seriously!) It really doesn’t take any more time, and the extra effort is minimal.  Here are the recipes I used for the popcorn we munched while watching Olivia make her on-screen return:

The BEST Popcorn

1/2 cup corn kernels

2 TBS Butter

2 TBS canola oil

This provides your popcorn base.  Heat the butter and canola oil in your stovetop popper over medium heat.  Throw in a few kernels as the oil is heating.  When they pop, add in the 1/2 cup of kernels.  Cook until all (or most) of the kernels have popped.  (My popper has a crank that you turn while the corn is popping to ensure the kernels don’t burn.)

I made two flavors out of this one batch of popcorn.

Rosemary Popcorn


1 TBS chopped fresh Rosemary

Add a couple handfuls of popcorn to your serving bowl and sprinkle with salt and Rosemary.  Continue to layer until your bowl is filled.  I find this coats the popcorn better than filling the bowl with popcorn, THEN sprinkling with toppings.

Cinnamon Popcorn

1 TBS sugar

1 TBS cinnamon

Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Layer the popcorn into a serving bowl, sprinkling a little of the cinnamon sugar as you go.

Enjoy with a glass of red wine!

We enjoyed ours with a glass of Grifone.  This is one of our favorite Trader Joe’s picks.  At $4.99 a bottle, it’s a bargain!  Grifone actually has several varietals that I purchase on a regular basis – all under $5.  (Don’t tell Olivia Pope it’s not a Chateauneuf!)


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Most Memorable Books

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Have y’all seen the latest Facebook chain status update – the one asking for your top ten books? One of my friends tagged me in hers, which meant I had to come up with the ten books that have affected me or stayed with me through the years. This was so tough! I finally narrowed my list down to ten, but I wanted to share with you the reasons I chose them along with the other finalists that made the short list.

1. Eat, Pray, Love

It’s been a few years since I read Eat, Pray, Love, but I still vividly remember sitting in the front passenger seat in my jeep, probably on the way to the lake, reading as fast as I could.  I gobbled this book up!  There was something so intensely personal about this memoir.  While I couldn’t relate to the marital strife that precipitated her journey to eat, pray, and love her way around the world, I did feel a certain empathy with her identity crisis.  Sometimes we all get stuck in a rut and wish we could venture outside of our shells and the little bubbles of life we create for ourselves.  Hubby and I do love to travel, and it would be amazing to just hit pause on reality for an extended time to experience another life of sorts.  I can’t bear the thought of leaving behind our little fur baby for that long of a time, though, and a world tour would certainly be an adventure with our little munchkin in tow!  I think I’ll wait until I have that private jet fueled up.  Do I have any friends with a hook up?  😀


2. Pride and Prejudice

This has to be my favorite of the classics.  I re-read it all the time!  I have the eBook on my Kindle, and I always pick up in a different spot.  (The Kindle version is FREE on amazon!) Often, I’ll just read a chapter or two in between reading other books.  It’s nice to have that one familiar book that has a way of taking you home.  I always enjoy strong female characters, especially ones who speak their minds freely and eloquently.  (Maybe because I always wish I could say just what I mean in an instant.  I constantly replay situations and can always come up with 10 things I wish I had said!) I absolutely LOVE the film version featuring Keira Knightley, including the music.  I honestly have never seen the miniseries featuring Colin Firth, but I have it on my Amazon Instant Video Watchlist!


3. Jane Eyre

Another classic featuring a strong female protagonist.  I love the unusual storyline, with just a hint of mystery.  I’m a sucker for descriptive narratives.  I love to be able to envision the complete scene – what it looks and feels like, and how the particular situation came to be.  (If you know me, you know that’s exactly how I tell a story.  Some may call it long-winded; I call it setting the scene! 😉 )


4. Le Temps d’un Ouragan (Nights in Rodanthe)

This one has a special place in my heart.  I read this while on foreign study in Versailles.  I remember perusing the local bookstore for a “fun” read compared to the classical French literature we had been reading for class.  This was a shorter read, which was perfect since most of my free time was spent exploring.  But, we did spend a lot of time on trains and buses, so a book was a great way to pass the time.  And, a book en français, no less!  At this point in time, I was really missing Hubby.  This was by far the longest we had been apart since we started dating 6 years prior.  What better time to read a Nicholas Sparks novel in the City of Lights?!  (Afterthought:  Hubby knew I had read this book on foreign study and that it was special to me, although I’m sure he didn’t exactly understand why.  He surprised me with a movie night on Valentine’s Day just after it was released on DVD.  Yes, he’s a keeper!)


5. The Art of Racing in the Rain

I. Love. This. Book.  It’s an unexpected gem of a novel.  Written from the viewpoint of a dog, it just pulls at your heartstrings!  (My mom and I both started leaving the TV on for our dogs after reading it.)  Any dog lover will tell you that each dog has its own personality, but to consider that a dog has such complicated thoughts and emotions epitomizes the idea that a dog is man’s best friend.  It also reminded me that life is short, especially for our canine family members, so make the most of it!


6.  The Boxcar Children

I was a late reader.  I remember my mom hired a tutor for me before kindergarten (I think it was kindergarten?)  We sat out on the screened-in porch with workbook pages, and I flat out refused to read.  The next thing I remember is going to the library the summer after kindergarten.  I believe we were in the children’s section looking at picture books, and somehow I stumbled upon The Boxcar Children.  I think my mom looked at me with a little concern; “But, there are no pictures in this one.”  (There may be a couple of sketch drawings, but it is definitely NOT a picture book.)  Sure enough, I read it on my own and was instantly hooked!  It also became a fast-favorite with many of my friends, and we would definitely “play” Boxcar Children on the playground.  Is there any better compliment for a children’s writer than for your readers to imagine they are your characters?


7. A Cry in the Night

This was my first “real” book, as in adult fiction. If I remember correctly, I was having trouble sleeping and asked my mom for a “real book.” I remember her browsing through our built-in bookcases, trying to find something age-appropriate. (We were still living in Mountain Brook, so I hadn’t yet turned 10. Am I remembering this correctly? Those are definitely the bookcases I am picturing.)

Irrelevant details aside, this novel started a love affair with anything Mary Higgins Clark! (While A Cry In The Night is my most memorable MHC novel, All Around The Town is probably my favorite.) It also marked the beginning of sharing books with my mom.


8.  The Happiness Project

I actually read this book around the same time as Eat, Pray, Love.  I said before that I could empathize with Elizabeth Gilbert’s identity crisis.  In truth, I was going through somewhat of an identity crisis myself.  (I still have on my list to read Quarterlife Crisis; maybe I’ll get to it before I enter my own midlife crisis!)  I believe Gretchen Rubin said it best in this book: “I had everything I could possibly want – yet I was failing to appreciate it.”  That’s exactly what I was feeling.  Just like Rubin, I wasn’t depressed, but I was failing to notice all the everyday highs that make up a happy life.  I didn’t have to be falling apart to want to make myself better.  She inspired me to stop going through the motions per sé, and the book inspired me to do something I had always thought about:  start a blog!


9. In Defense of Food

I read this “manifesto” by accident.  I had ordered it for my boss at the time by his instruction.  I remember opening the package when it arrived at the office and being intrigued by the cover.  I had really just recently become interested in health and nutrition.  I had always been interested in food and eating well, but I was oblivious to the industry of food.  I knew that vegetables were healthy and cokes (yes, I’m from Atlanta; all sodas are cokes) were bad, but I didn’t know exactly why.  This book opened up a whole new world of eating to me.  I was fascinated to learn the history of how our food is marketed in this country; I was even more fascinated to learn how to see through these marketing ploys.  I spent one night devouring this book, and it literally changed the way I look at food.  For me, this is a definite must-read for anyone interested in controlling what goes into our bodies.


10.  Number the Stars

This book is another nostalgic pick.  I can’t remember what grade I was in (shocking, I know! I’m actually now guessing 4th grade. . .), but I read it for a book report.  We had to present symbolic items, and I remember practicing in our family room (the same one that housed the built-in bookshelves I mentioned above).  I was still dressed in my short-sleeved black leotard, having just gotten home from dance class, and I was wearing a gold necklace.  (Maybe the Samantha locket?  Seriously – do not ask me HOW I remember such trivial details.)  In this memory, I am pulling out objects from a brown grocery bag, and one of these objects is the Star of David.  I believe this is THE BOOK that started my obsession with the Holocaust.  Do not let the fact that this is juvenile fiction undermine its importance as an historical account.  Lois Lowry is an amazing writer!


And, now, the short list.  These are the titles that ALMOST made the cut 🙂

1. The Giver

As I said above, Lois Lowry is an amazing writer!  We read The Giver in my 8th grade English class.  This novel was so controversial at the time.  It is definitely a great read for any age!


2. Fifteen

This is purely a sentimental read.  I remember buying (rather, my parents buying) this book at a used bookstore we used to frequent when I was younger.  I can still picture this cover.  (I actually scrolled down on Amazon until I found the exact cover I remembered!)  I think it captures every young girl’s ideal of first love, as stereotypical as it may be.


3. Little Women

This was a hard one to cut from my final list.  I have always loved this story, and I loved reading Jo’s Boys and Little Men as well.  (I love a story that doesn’t seem to end!)  I received it as a Christmas gift, and I remember having it read to me before bed.  It continued to be a favorite of mine as I got older.  I was also a tiny bit obsessed with the movie version featuring Wynona Ryder and (gasp!) Christian Bale!  I feel this story evokes the young, optimistic girl in all of us.


4. A Wrinkle In Time

I’m really not into science fiction.  At all.  But, I was obsessed with A Wrinkle In Time!  There was something so realistic about this story that I could really picture myself in it.  Honestly, if I don’t feel like I’ve been a part of a story, it’s a waste of my time!  This also reminds me of Middle School English, and, for some reason, I always picture the school library when I think of it.


5. Crime and Punishment

I honestly don’t know why I like this book so much, but I always think of it when I think of favorite books.  There is a sadness to the writing of this novel, I think, that for some reason spoke to me.  I really should read it again as an adult.  (I really should read all of these again!)


6. A Tale of Two Cities

This has to be my favorite Dickens novel.  I think it’s the fact that it’s set in France.  Once again, I love the descriptions in Dickens’ writing.  I’m aware he’s not for everyone, but he is one of my favorites.  Great Expectations is a close second.


7. As Nature Made Him

I read this on summer break from Furman.  I want to say it was after my Freshman year.  I was pretty sure Sociology would be my major, and I wanted to read everything I could related to the idea of nature vs. nurture.  I found this book on the shelf at my local bookstore and decided to give it a try.  On a societal level, I very much believe in the role popular culture plays upon individuals.  However, the idea that a person could be trapped inside the wrong body is still very intriguing.  While I can’t say how I would handle such a situation with a child of my own, I’m still reminded of this book when I think of approaching gender stereotypes with children.


8. Night

If you haven’t read this account by Elie Wiesel, you must.  No question.  The small size of the book physically disguises the intensity of its message.  I gave face to Number the Stars because I believe it was the impetus behind my interest in World War II, but this book will change you.  (I’m suddenly remembering another book I read in Middle School related to World War II and the Holocaust.  If I can come up with the title, I’ll have to share that one as well.)


Happy Reading!






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The Roar of a Sunday Crowd: Garth Brooks LIVE

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This past Sunday, we managed to FINALLY make it to a Garth Brooks concert.  Woo Hoo!  This concert has to be on everyone’s bucket list!  We thought we were going to have our chance a few years back.  Hubby’s cousin was getting married in Vegas, and Garth (we’re on a first-name basis) had recently come out of retirement for weekend shows there.  But, alas, the timing did not work out.  We talked again about going out to Vegas specifically for a concert, but we just could never get it coordinated.  When we heard the World Tour announcement, we were determined to get tickets!

Now, I’ve been having an issue with Ticketmaster (aside from the fees 😮 ).  I tried to get tickets to the George Strait final tour several months ago.  (Hubby’s and my “song” is by George Strait and has been since we first started dating eons ago!)  I was online exactly when they went on sale and still didn’t manage to get any.  I tried again when the first round of Garth tickets went on sale.  Same deal – logged onto Ticketmaster the minute sales opened.  No luck!  So frustrating!  Then, more shows were announced.  Normally, I would have set an alarm for a few minutes before the sales were scheduled to start.  But, thanks to our little Munchkin, I’m usually up way ahead of time.  However, that Friday night we had friends in from out of town, and we all stayed up way past our bedtime, little man included.  Of course, this would be the one time that he slept a full night and slept in late.  I woke up right at 9 and kicked myself.  I had missed my second chance.

Ever the optimist, though, Hubby asked if I had even tried.  Of course I hadn’t!  Why would I even bother minutes after the sale started?  But, he did have a point.  So, I logged on 5 minutes after the sale began.  To my surprise, I actually got tickets!  Hubby was also in the queue, and he scored 4 more!  Who cares that they were for a Sunday night?!

Garth did not disappoint!  I could tell from the first song that his voice was a little hoarse after already performing 4 shows this weekend.  (He even apologized for that fact!) But, he still gave it all he had.  We really didn’t want the night to end.  He even came out for 2 encores.  Hubby and I kept thinking of more songs he could have played, but he did hit all the staples.  I do wish he and Trisha had performed another song or 2 together.  Their other duet, “Where Your Road Leads,” or actually, “To Make You Feel My Love” would have been a great choice.  Maybe they’ll add one of those to their next tour 🙂  He played with the band; he played acoustic.  He was even taking fans’ phones and taking pictures for them, including a selfie or two!  Seriously, y’all, if you have the opportunity: Go see him!

Plus, he just seems like a genuinely humble human being.  (Like I said, we’re on a first-name basis, so of course I can comment on his integrity as a person!)  Maybe it’s the mark of a true artist, but it means a lot to me as a fan to feel included.  I’m more willing to fork over my cash (concerts are not cheap; where did the $20 seats go?!) if an artist acknowledges my contribution, albeit very tiny, to his success.  A little flattery goes a long way, people!

We were a little worried about our seats going in – they were behind the stage – but they actually turned out to be closer to the stage than our other choice.  And, Garth, Trisha, and the band did a great job of playing to the seats behind the stage.  We could see everything!   It was a pretty amazing night!  Glad we got to share it with these sweet friends:

The roar of a Sunday crowd

The roar of a Sunday crowd

And, I still have my Garth tracks on shuffle!  Does anyone else do that before AND after a concert??

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Meatless Monday: One Pot Pasta

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Have y’all tried the one-pot-pasta dishes you may have seen on Pinterest?  They’re awesome!  I’ve tried a couple before, and they’re super easy.  My least favorite aspect of normal pasta dishes is that you cook the pasta, and then you usually have to have another pan going to sauté veggies or meat or some kind of sauce to go with it.  I don’t need any help with adding more dirty dishes – Hubby already says that I use just about everything in the kitchen every night!

But, not only are these one-pot-wonders simple, they’re also fast.  I actually had another recipe on the menu tonight for Meatless Monday.  (We usually eat meatless a couple times a week, but I do love the concept of dedicating one night a week no matter what.  It also helps with menu-planning.)  However, I way underestimated my efficiency today.  I waited until Munchkin’s nap time today to menu plan, which meant that I had to wait until he woke up to do my grocery shopping.  (The one flaw in menu planning on Mondays!)  He took an earlier nap today, but it was still after 4 before were on our way to the store.  First stop, Trader Joe’s.  (We were out of red wine; major dilemma given Scandal’s season premiere on Thursday!!)  Now, I love Trader Joe’s, and the Buckhead location has done a good job of providing a better variety of produce, and bulk produce at that.  But, I usually cannot get away with doing a week’s worth of grocery shopping at a single store.  So, of course, there were a couple items that they didn’t have, and another stop was required.  By the time we got through with the Publix stop and got home, it was almost time to start cooking.  I checked the recipe and discovered that it called for at least an hour between prep and cook time.  So, a little menu switcheroo.  I checked Thursday’s recipe, and luckily, found that it was under 30-minutes all-in.  Score!

I managed to prepare and cook this recipe during an episode of Jeopardy!  (Jeopardy is a staple in our house 🙂 )  It would have taken even less time if I had opted for the pre-sliced white mushrooms instead of the whole cremini mushrooms.  The difference is minimal in cooked dishes, so I don’t know why I insisted on the cremini, other than the fact that Hubby much prefers portobellos.  All you do is throw everything into the pot, including the pasta; bring the water to a boil, and then, let it simmer.  This recipe has a cream-based sauce, so you add in the cream and cheese after the pot has cooked.  At first, the sauce was a little watery, but I let it continue to simmer while waiting on Hubby to get home, and it turned out perfectly!  The little bit of water was necessary to create the sauce, and the simmer time really let the flavors concentrate.

This recipe comes to you from Damn Delicious via Pinterest!  Don’t forget to add a little more freshly ground pepper and grated Parmesan to your plate! My notes are in red 🙂

One Pot Zucchini Mushroom Pasta

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced (or any other mushroom variety)
  • 2 zucchini, thinly sliced and quartered (quartered, then sliced!)
  • 2/3 cup peas (Frozen peas!)
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 sprigs thyme (Add as much as you like; I don’t think you can have too much!)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan (Plus a little extra for serving)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

In a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium high heat, combine spaghetti, mushrooms, zucchini, peas, garlic, thyme and 4 1/2 cups water; season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until pasta is cooked through and liquid has reduced, about 8-10 minutes. Stir in Parmesan and heavy cream.

(Continue to simmer until sauce is a thick consistency.)


One Pot Zucchini Mushroom Pasta à la Damn Delicious

Bon appétit!

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So Fresh & So Clean: Homemade Laundry Detergent

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I hate laundry.  There, I said it.  Does anyone enjoy laundry?  It’s never finished.  There’s always that sock that fell on the way to the laundry room.  Or, the clothes that you’re wearing that will go in the dirty clothes basket just as soon as you’ve put away all the clean clothes that are now filling it.  Why do the dryer and the washing machine never finish at the same time?  Why are there always just a couple empty rungs on the drying rack but not enough for a whole other load?  (Is it just me or is “rung” a funny word.  Yep, just googled that to make sure I knew what I was saying! And, yes, “google” is a verb!) I do have a nice new laundry room, so the chore is more enjoyable than it used to be.  (Blog post coming on our basement renovation;  soon, I promise!)  But, I still don’t like it.

It’s unavoidable, though.  So, let’s just get on with the dirty work.

(You’re smiling now, right?  You’re welcome!)

Today, it was finally time to make some more laundry detergent.  Yes, I said “make.”  Yes, I MAY be crazy, but not for making my own laundry detergent!

I started researching laundry detergents while I was pregnant with our little Bambino.  I know there are special “baby” formulas, but have you ever wondered what’s special and different about them?  The baby smell, you say?  Well, did you know that the baby smell is just a fragrance added?  There’s nothing inherently “baby” about the ingredients in it.  I also didn’t like the idea of always having to separate laundry.  Now, for those of you who already have little munchkins, you know that it takes no time at all to come up with a full load of little clothes.  (3 outfits per day is the status quo around here!)  But, there are plenty of times when you have just a thing or two to wash and want to throw it in with whatever else you’re washing.  Do you really want to worry about what detergent you should use?  My answer was no.

As I was researching about chemicals in laundry detergent, I found that a lot of the so-called “free” versions are not so free of hidden chemicals.  I love this post from Goop:  The Dirty on Getting Clean.  (For those of you who aren’t familiar with Goop, this is Gwyneth Paltrow’s website.  She explores all sorts of topics, and it’s a fun and informative read.)  I’ll admit to still using some of the products on her “was using” list, but one thing at a time!  I definitely don’t have the energy for a complete whole-house overall of every evil ingredient at once!

I also kept coming upon recipes for homemade laundry detergent.  Was it really that simple?  I would know exactly what was in it; I could pick a recipe that would be safe for Bambino and us; and, BONUS, maybe save a little money in the process?  Worth a shot!

I’ll admit I was a little overwhelmed at first at all the different variations.  Some people say no to Borax in laundry detergents, but I decided I was OK with it.  You can make your own decision.  I’ve done a little experimenting, and I have 2 favorite recipes that I use.

The first recipe from Consider a Field of Lilies came to me through a friend.  She actually uses Fels-Naptha soap.  This recipe is the simplest – 1 cup soap, 1/2 cup borax, 1/2 cup washing soda.  And, while it does a great job with our everyday laundry, I found I needed a little something extra for heavy duty laundry that comes during a basement renovation.  So, that led to me try out another recipe.

The second recipe is from one of my favorite blogs: Southern Savers.  (Another friend actually put me on to Southern Savers; it’s a great website for the budget savvy.)  This recipe has a couple extra ingredients, but I find that it does a great job on super soiled laundry.  Some people add color-safe bleach or other stain fighters to regular laundry detergents.  This one is all ready to go!  For this recipe, you’ll need the standard three ingredients above (bar soap, borax, and washing soda), plus Oxi Brite and baking soda. (Note: this recipe makes a lot because you are using full boxes of the ingredients, rather than measuring smaller portions. I wish I had made a note of when I made it, but it was sometime early in the year, and I just ran out.  I’d say AT LEAST 6 months!)

For both recipes, I use Dr. Bronner’s Castile Bar Soap.  Dr. Bronner’s is becoming very readily available at major stores.  In the past, I’ve ordered from Amazon, but I haven’t price compared recently to know if that’s the best deal or not. I chose the baby mild soap with Bambino in mind.  You can add some essential oil drops for a scent if you choose.  I did try lavender oil with one batch, but I couldn’t smell anything after the clothes were washed and dried, so I think it’s unnecessary.  I also ordered Oxi Brite from Amazon.  The other ingredients I can actually find at my local Kroger in the laundry aisle.

Now that you have all the ingredients, it’s time to put it all together.  You will need to grate the soap.  You can use a cheese grater on the very fine setting, or (faster option) throw it into your food processor.  At first, I didn’t like that the food processor left the strips bigger.  I happened to have run out of washing soda, so I couldn’t make a full batch and had extra grated soap leftover.  I threw it into a plastic Ziploc and discovered that I could mash the soap into finer pieces.  I will definitely be doing that the next go-round!

I found a cute glass container at Home Goods to store it in.  Now, I think I need to add some other jars for my leftover ingredients!  Happy Laundry Day!

Laundry Detergent

Laundry Detergent

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Making chicken stock from scratch is not a novel idea. My mom, in fact, makes her own frequently. But, it was just never on my to-do list. While I enjoy cooking, I’m not much of a baker; I don’t tend to make things that require lots of stove time. I like to see quick results from my effort, although there is a standing joke in our house involving 30-minute-meals, as in “is dinner almost ready or is this another one of those 30-minute-meals?” So, I guess it’s no surprise that I would much rather buy a box of stock at the store than sweat for hours over a big pot on the stove. (I always buy an organic, low sodium version. Trader Joe’s has a great option for a decent price.)

But, then I started seeing ideas for soups in the crock pot. Would it be possible to make chicken stock in the crock pot? That would take the simmer time out of the equation. But what about all the ingredients? It always seemed daunting to buy all the fresh ingredients to make something that just goes into something else.  Then, I saw this post about kitchen scraps. Now, that’s a great idea! Kind of a twist on Rachael Ray’s garbage bowl, but instead of throwing it in the trash, toss it into the freezer.

What about the chicken? Was there a way to be resourceful on that front as well? Sure enough, there was according to this other post.

So, I could make a stock using all “recycled” ingredients and my crock pot? I’m in!

It took me no time at all to store up a chicken carcass (thanks to Hubby’s beer can chicken!) and a bag full of veggie and herb scraps.  It really is less depressing to throw unused herbs and other extra veggies into the freezer for a later purpose rather than just tossing them into the trash.  I think the end result turned out pretty tasty.  It was easy, cheap, and I know exactly what’s going into it.  It has definitely turned into a staple in my kitchen!


Freezer Bags

I’m now in the habit of keeping a Ziploc bag (or two) in the freezer.  Anytime I chop a vegetable and have skins or peels or leftovers, I throw them in the bag.  If I’m cleaning out the fridge and notice some veggies starting to go bad, I’ll throw them in.  You don’t want to use anything that has already spoiled, but anything on the verge that you know will not get eaten before it does go bad is fair game!  Peels and skins are fine because you are going to strain it after it cooks, and they can add just as much flavor as the “meat” of the vegetable.


Chicken Stock just before the crock pot lid went on!

Dump your chicken carcass and veggies into the crock pot.  Fill with water almost to the top.  If you happen to have some fresh herbs on hand, thrown some in as well.  Then, set your crock pot to low for 8-10 hours, and let it do all the work!  Skim off the layer of fat on top, remove any large chunks with some tongs, and then pour through a strainer.  Store in the fridge or freezer.  Plastic Chinese food containers are great for storing stock and other soups in the freezer.  Just be sure to leave a little bit of room at the top for expansion.

Eighth Bucket List Item:  Make chicken stock from scratch.  Check.

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Throwback Thursday: Sip ‘N’ See From A-Z

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In honor of Throwback Thursday, here’s a look at the Sip & See my sister hosted for Colton back in February.

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She made the invitations herself!



To go with the ABC-theme, my sister and mom chose the cutest decorations, which were actually all gifts for Colton to take home.  Shown here is a Play and Learn ABC board book and Eric Carle’s ABC Game.  Colton loves this ABC book!  It has touch-and-feel pages, and he loves to pat the bunny.  He will entertain himself for hours – ok, not really, but definitely minutes!  (You can also catch a glimpse of his birth announcement clipped to the lamp.)


Delicious Food

My mom, sister, and I all love to cook, so it’s no surprise that the food was delicious!  Lots of fun dips and, of course, petits fours!


Table Decorations

My mom is always so creative with tablescapes.  (WordPress just underlined tablescapes – is that not a word?  Did anyone else use to watch Semi Homemade with Sandra Lee on the Food Network?  Pretty sure she coined the word!)  While Mom does love a beautiful tablecloth, and always finds the best deals at Williams-Sonoma, her other favorite table linen is fabric.  By the yard.  Thank the seamstress in her for that tip!  Then, after the event, she’ll turn it into one of her many creations.  Talk about bang for your buck!

Colton is obsessed with these Dr. Seuss Building Blocks.  We pull them out just about every day.  He hasn’t quite caught onto the stacking concept, but he loves to knock them over, drum on them, and put cars or balls in them.  We also play with the Skip Hop Alphabet Zoo House Blocks all the time.  Aside from knocking over towers, Colton’s favorite block activity is to clap two blocks together, preferably while listening to some Luke Bryan.  😀


Champagne & Raspberries

Does champagne ever need an explanation?  😉 Check out the striped straws!  We took home our very own alphabet magnets: the quintessential childhood toy.  Also pictured is Peter Rabbit’s ABC.  Super cute book!


Alphabet Craft

My sister set out a complete alphabet of wooden letters along with paints and paint brushes.  The guests were asked to decorate a letter for Colton.  My sister and mom are adding magnets to the back to go along with a magnet board that they’re making.  I can’t wait to share the finished project once it’s hung in the toy corner!


These three always entertain each other!


Thanks for my party, Aunt Brooke!

This is one loved little guy!


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A Hole-in-ONE Thank you

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Thanks for making my birthday a Hole in ONE!

Thanks for making my birthday a Hole in ONE!

This may be my favorite part of Colton’s Hole in ONE party: the thank you notes! I saw this card and thought it would be the perfect way to thank our friends and family for sharing his special day. I love a good handmade craft!

Colton and I love finger painting projects!  I painted his foot with green tempera paint (washable!) using just a paper towel and made about four footprints on a piece of copy paper.  (This technique results in a much more even footprint as opposed to dipping his foot in paint, which always ends up with globs in all the wrong places.)  I figured that out of four, one was bound to be a keeper.  I scanned the footprints into iPhoto, and then chose the best one.  Now, washable tempera paints are great since I don’t have to worry about paint stains on my clothes, but I find that the colors are a little weak.  The “green” is not a true kelly green.  So, I manipulated the color just a bit to get a decent green using iPhoto.

Then, I created a note card using my Silhouette Studio.  I used this tutorial to make the standard card outline. I imported my footprint image onto the note card.  I printed the card on card stock and then cut them out.  I then used the same cupcake flag template I used for Colton’s cupcakes and banner, only smaller, but I deleted the cut marks for the toothpick.  I used a brown sharpie to draw a hole and a flag post onto the green.  Then, I glued the flag cutout onto the post.

Now that I’m getting the hang of the Silhouette, craft projects like this are going a lot faster.  I was able to design, print, cut, and glue about a dozen cards all during Colton’s afternoon nap.  (Have I mentioned how thankful I am that our little Munchkin is now a pretty good napper?! That topic alone probably deserves its own post.  Or 20! 😯 )

I think they turned out pretty cute!

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Almost 3 years ago, I got a new camera for Christmas. I did a little research and decided on the Nikon D5100. A friend of mine already had one, and her photos always turn out beautifully.  I’ve always taken a lot of pictures.  Hubby gave me a Fuji digital camera before study abroad, and we both got a lot of use out of it.  You can look around our home and tell that 1) we LOVE to travel and 2) we LOVE to take pictures of all the places we’ve been.  I was ready for the upgrade but was at a loss at where to start learning about photography.

Funny story:  Hubby and I actually met working at a photography studio during high school.  We were two years apart in school, so we probably wouldn’t have crossed paths otherwise.  Thanks, Russell!

While I can help you pick out a great portrait, and I think we’ve been lucky to get some great shots over the years along our travels, I couldn’t tell you a thing about photography techniques.  I came across a Groupon shortly after Christmas for a local photography workshop.  I vaguely remembered reading on a friend’s blog about the same workshop.  I decided to chance it.

I ventured down to Little Five Points with a friend for our introduction to DSLR.  I have to say, it was well worth the time and the money.  I really should take a refresher class now that I’ve had some time to play with my camera on my own.  I now know to play with settings to get a specific result, but I would love to be able to know which setting to use instantly without having to go through the trial-and-error process.  Here are some shots from the day:

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Seventh Bucket List Item: Take a photography class.  Check.

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