Wednesday, November 30, 2011

1st Blogiversary

This month I celebrate my first blogiversary! For non techies that means the anniversary of writing my blog.  One whole year! It actually fell last week before thanksgiving but I'm just getting around to celebrating. I thought I'd recap a few of the highlights from my journey.

The stats:
Months: 12
Published posts: 178
Comments posted: 532
Followers: 79

Google AdSense income earned: $9.85

Top Referring URL's:
  1. Young House Love
  2. Apartment Therapy
  3. Bower Power
  4. this Pinterest Pin
Posts that got the most hits:
  1. Stuff I've made from Pinterest
  2. Potato Noodles
  3. Hotel vs. Motel
  4. DIY no sew table runner
  5. Organic Shampoos - Research
That whopping nine dollars and eighty five cents earned on ads is pathetic yet amazing to me since I still think that nobody reads my blog. Are you really out there? I do know of a handful of friends who probably read on occasion but the rest of you?!?... I still write as if I'm writing diary a la 4th grade style. Also I should mention that I have yet to reach that Google AdSense threshold so I can't actually get that money; nor will I any time soon.  Not that I know how any of it works.

Overall the whole blogging thing is still new to me.  I just sorta make it up as I go along with no plan or goals.  I've enjoyed the past year of blogging and it's something that I do mainly just for me.  It's fun to catalog this chapter of our lives and put down on paper the internet our adventures as newlyweds.  Maybe make some friends and get some free stuff out of it too.

That Stuff I've made from Pinterest post really didn't surprise me that it got so many hits as I linked it up on Young House Love but coming in at number two Potato Noodles?!?  Tony actually wrote that one soon after that episode aired from Top Chef.  Apparently lots of people found our post - not sure how because I wasn't even tagging or alt-tagging back then.  Sounds fancy right?  I wish.  My HTML experience due to the last year of blogging is now up to: removing links from photos, making links open in a new tab/window (still not sure which) and alt-tagging.  All in a bloggers day work.

New blogging goals for the coming year.

  1. Keep blogging
  2. Organize the site better with pages for recipes, things I've made from pinterest (of which there have been a lot lately) etc.
  3. Include fun videos?
  4. Include more 'real camera' photos; not just iphone camera ones
  5. Figure out Google AdSense (if anyone would like to teach me please let me know if we can work out an arrangement!)
  6. Host some giveaways and/or get some sponsors.
Now for some fun family photos!
plaid anyone?  silly Tony
very full after Thanksgiving dinner
the whole family!  Before giving Cornelius a bath (for fleas)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Corn Maque Choux

Our bellies were full this Thanksgiving. Hope everyone enjoyed their holiday! This was our second Thanksgiving as newlyweds. Newlyweds or a young married couple. Whatever we are we celebrated together with my parents and siblings. We'll switch for Christmas and probably each year from now on. The joy's of living far away from both sides of the family!

One dish that is an A family tradition and a newbie we tried this year in my household was Corn Maque Choux. It was a new dish and a surprisingly great! Everyone loved it! We did break our vegetarian lifestyle for this holiday and ate lots of meat. Well I actually ate not that much since I was never a huge meat eater to begin with. Technically we didn't break out rule since we only eat vegetarian IN our own house, not when travelling or at others' houses. Regardless we ate meat and this Corn Maque Choux has bacon. Delicious bacon.  

Corn Maque Choux

Ingredients:
1/2 pound of bacon, chopped
6 ears of corn
1 1/2 cups of chopped red onion
1 cup of chopped bell peppers
salt
cayenne 
2 cups of chopped, peeled, seeded tomatoes or 1 cup of canned chopped tomatoes
1 cup of milk (or cream)
1/4 cup of chopped green onions

Directions:
In large skillet, over medium heat, render the bacon until crispy. Drain the bacon on paper towel and set aside. Pour off all the bacon fat except 2 tablespoons. 

Cut the corn off the cob by thinly slicing across the tops of the kernels and then cutting across the second time to release the milk from the corn. Scrape the cob once or twice to extract the milk. You should have 4 cups of corn with the milk.  

To the pan, over medium heat, add the 2 tablespoons of bacon fat, onions, and bell peppers. Season with salt and cayenne. Saute for 2 minutes. Add the corn. Continue to saute for 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes or until the corn is tender. Stir in milk and remove from heat.  Stir in the crispy, chopped bacon and green onions.  

Serve immediately.  

Corn Maque Choux

One tip for cutting the kernels off ears of corn: use a bundt ban.  Prop the corn up in the center hole.  It keeps all the kernels contained without flying everywhere and gives you a little rise for ease of cutting.  This works great!
Corn Maque Choux
this is a very dramatically lit photo.
Corn Maque Choux
Scrape the cob once or twice to get all the milk.

Corn Maque Choux

Corn Maque Choux

Corn Maque Choux
We may have used all the viable bacon fat in cooking.  Not just 2 tablespoons.  

Corn Maque Choux

Corn Maque Choux


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy 2011 Thanksgiving. Today I'm thankful for a lot. Family, food, friends, blog readers, pets, our health, a nice roof over our heads, freedom and life. Oh and bacon. Our long 11 months of being vegetarian is taking a hiatus for this holiday season and bacon. I'll recap what we ate but there are some new fun additions to the family menu this year.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Winterizing Our House

Despite some of the 70 degree warm weather days we've been having here Fall is here and Winter is just waiting to strike.  Since our (rental) house is old and drafty I decided to take our warmth (and heating bill dollars) into my own hands.  I was at Lowes and found a window seal kit.  Basically you seal plastic around your window frames so it adds an extra barrier against drafts and heat escaping.  It sounded pretty good and for $7 it claimed to do 5 windows.  All you needed in addition to the kit was a hair dryer (I'm a girl; so check).  

”winterizing
the before is just a regular shot of one of our windows.  This may be the bathroom
window but they all look exactly the same.  

”winterizing


”winterizing

Lay the plastic on the largest surface you can find in your house.  This was our kitchen.  I tried to get the most out of the given plastic and measure smartly.  Unfortunately our windows are taller than the width of the plastic.  I started to get the feeling I'd run of out plastic very quickly.  

”winterizing

You basically stick the provided double sided tape around the inside of your window frame then hang the plastic up.  In this case I encased our blinds inside the plastic.  This was the bathroom so there is no worry of needing to open the blinds - all winter ever.

”winterizing

I trimmed it up and then got the hair dryer out.  There are no photos of me hair drying the plastic since this was a solo project home alone.  Just imagine a hair dryer 1" from the plastic.  It was really cool how it stretched the plastic out and got rid of all the wrinkles.  

”winterizing


See how there is only a hint of a tiny wrinkle?  Done!  We're improving our R-values by 90%!  No clue what that means but hopefully it translates to cheaper heating bills.  I repeated the steps for another window then ran out of plastic.  I know the package said 5 windows!  I manged to piece together a third window by taping some pieces together with regular packaging tape.  I did three windows that are out of the way and we don't use very often.  They are very see through though and you can barely tell there's an extra layer there.  

Any other winterizing tips out there?  I may blog about our fireplace dilemma soon.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Our Semi Organic Fridge

Remember Our Semi Organic Pantry? This is its neighbor/twin. Welcome to our semi organic household fridge (and freezer). I couldn't just leave the freezer out so it joined the party too. I love being nosy on other people's blogs about what they wore that week, what their closet, purse, car, cubicle, diaper bag, office looks like. Here's ours. Our fridge.

I start with the top.  This is pretty typical of our fridge.  I think I had gone grocery shopping a day or 2 before these photos.
Olives,  couponed cooking cream, salsa, coconut milk, gimme lean 'sausage', hummus, sour cream,
chocolate pudding, whipped cream cheese, fresh mushrooms, fillo dough, free range organic eggs and more hummus
Did you know that there are generic brand knock off cozy shack chocolate puddings out there?!  I love cozy shack brand chocolate pudding (and their rice pudding) so was thrilled when I could get it for cheaper by buying generic.  It tastes great!  It's also normal for us to have at least 2 containers of hummus at one time.  I actually added a third after this photo was taken (garlic hummus).  
goat cheese, mozzarella cheese, yogurt, apple turnovers, leftover salad, roasted red peppers,
unfrosted cake pops, plain cooked pasta & leftover asian rice dish (with edamame & pineapple)
Sorry the photos are kinda dark.  Not many people design their kitchens for optimal inside of fridge photos - even the people who did the lighting for our house.  Surprising, since our kitchen has 8 light switches and almost every light in our house has a dimmer installed.  Even both bathrooms.
lemonade, pasta sauce, organic chicken broth, organic spinach & almond milk
Yep we drink non dairy milk 100% of the time. Almond milk is the 'milk' of choice. Blue Diamond is our favorite but Silk is a good back up when on sale. That broth is the last of our huge Costco pack of broths. We went through 8 containers of broth - well... very quickly. We also go through those huge containers of spinach at ultra speed.  


I forgot to label celery.  It was in the bottom of that left drawer and I forgot to look when I was snapping.  That should be organic since it's a big dirty dozen.  
lots of the regular things including: creamed honey, lemon & lime juice, thai peanut sauce, pesto,
garlic, rooster sauce, maple syrup, leftover soda from party, lots of salad dressings & juice.
black bean burgers, meatless meatballs, frozen pepper strips, fillo dough, naan, peas
rice, chicken-less nuggets, pizza dough, tater tots, spinach & more veggie burgers
Is anything in our freezer organic right now?  Ummm... don't think so so much.  The peas maybe?!  Something hidden in the back of the freezer perhaps.

gyoza, vegetable scraps for someday making broth, cherry fruit pops
edamame, homemade salted caramel Jeni's ice cream (bad batch), lots of dorats and lots of freezer packs.

That's the tour.  Hope it makes you hungry.  
If you've done a fridge tour yourself - link up!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

DIY Liquid Hand Soap from Bar Soap

I've made plenty of DIY cleaners around our house (like this & this) so it was just a matter of time before I turned to hand soap for my next recipe.  I noticed we were getting low on hand soap in our bathrooms & kitchen sink.  I also noticed how expensive replacements and even refills can be in the store.  Even our beloved cheap Fresh to Frozen can be sometimes be pricey (maybe we should pick up a 5 gallon industrial bag of liquid soap next time they stock it though!).  I turned to the internet (see here) and come up with this my homemade DIY liquid hand soap recipe:

Materials:
  • 1/2 bar of Ivory bar Soap (you can use other bar soaps)
  • 1/2 gallon of water
  • 1 tbsp liquid glycerin
  • few drops of essential oil (optional)
  • 1 box grater
  • 1 large pot
Directions: Finely grate 1/2 a bar of soap.  I used the very fine selection on our box grater for the tiniest curls of soap.  You could use the larger holes or even a food processor if needed.  I decided to make essentially a half recipe of what was once a full recipe that equaled 1 bar of soap to 1 gallon of water.  I chose to make a half recipe of 1/2 bar of soap to 1/2 gallon of water since I wasn't sure I'd like it at first and had commitment issues.  The half recipe still makes a lot!

”DIY

”DIY
Note: this Ivory soap I used was 1 full bar = 3.1 oz.
If you're using other bar soaps of different sizes you may want to use more or less water
”DIY
soap curls
Directions (cond't): Fill a pot with 1/2 a gallon of water (8 cups) and place on stove.  Add the soap shavings and 1 tbsp of liquid glycerin.  (Directions follow below...) Make sure to use 100% glycerin.  I used vegetable glycerin but either vegetable or regular standard glycerin will work.  The difference?  One is made from animal fats and the other is not as well as being food grade and will not spoil.

”DIY

”DIY

The big "Where can I buy glycerin?" issue!  I've read a bunch of blogs and sites with soap recipes and thoughts on where to buy the stuff.  I bought my small 4 oz container of glycerin a few months ago with hopes of making something homemade and cheap (like this soap!).  I bought it online and found a introductory offer for $5 off my first order off some random herbal online store (don't remember).  Essentially I got my glycerin for free.

You can buy this in some stores!  Whole Foods probably has is.  Target doesn't.  Independent pharmacies, local health markets, weird herb stores all probably do.  GNC doesn't.  Walgreens doesn't... no wait it does.    While shopping for glycerin I kept looking in the (lovely) suppository section because it is commonly used for well... that purpose.  Although it seems most places don't carry straight liquid glycerin for that.  Ya wanna know where I found it?  Randomly.  The lotion aisle!  It appears to be an African American women's hair care product!

”DIY

Yep Walgreens carries it in their lotion aisle.  That is the truth.  Apparently you can find it sometimes in the band-aid section of stores.  I called our local independent pharmacy and they do carry it (at the direction of a helpful Target pharmacist).  I couldn't find it at a lot of stores but perhaps because I was looking in the wrong section!  Most employees looked at me like I was crazy and had zero thoughts on where to even begin looking.  Regardless Yes you can find this and get going on you recipe!

(also apparently it's a Wilton product too so maybe it's sold in the fondant section of craft stores)

Directions (cond't): Mix the water, soap & glycerin on med/high on the stove until everything is dissolved.  It should just look like soapy water once it's done.  Take off heat. If you want to add a few drops of essential oils now is the time.  I added about 3-4 drops of lemon but you can't tell the difference, so more is needed next time.  Let it sit in the pot uncovered  for 10-12 hours.  Yep.  I recommend make this in the morning so you have a chance to finish this project in 1 day!

”DIY

After a few hours it becomes a more solid/gel like state.  

”DIY

After 10-12 hours you're ready for the last step.  Use a large spoon to mix it all up.  It starts off pretty thick but becomes more liquid and hand soap consistency.  Use a spoon or hand beaters to create a totally liquid pot of soap.
see how thick this got after 10 hours?

Use a mixer to mix everything to make it liquid form.  This took a few minutes since some parts really didn't want to come apart.  You can add some water here if it seems to thick.  I added perhaps too much.  I just turned the faucet on since I was doing this in the sink in fear of splatters (of which there were none).  I estimate I added 1/2 - 1 cup of water.  I recommend less that than.  It will depend on what type of bar of soap you started with though.  

”DIY

When you're done just find a container to keep your new hand soap in!  I used an old orange juice container.

”DIY
DIY liquid hand soap from bar soap
Final update: okay so I left my new hand soap out over night on the counter.  I was super proud of myself!  In the morning I noticed that it had separated some.  The bubbles on top and the liquid soap on bottom.  No worries!  I refilled our regular soap dispenser on the bathroom sink and it worked great!  Again I wouldn't add too much extra water at the end - mine was a little extra runny.  The soap cleaned great.  It didn't leave the same 'bar soap' feeling behind on your hands that I hate.  It smelled great.  Overall I'll probably keep making this recipe in the future!

”DIY

Price of this DIY liquid hand soap from bar soap project?  1/2 a bar of Ivory soap $0.33 (guess), 1 tablespoon of glycerin $0.25 (guess), water free, other equipment already owned = $0.58 total.  Not bad for something that is normally upwards of five dollars for this amount.  

*** I'm over at 'Girl With Curls' today doing a little guest blogging.  Check it out here! ***

Monday, November 14, 2011

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

It's Fall

It's our first fall in Virginia (together) and it is beautiful!  We've been enjoying the cool weather (some of the time; we both love warm weather more then cold!), taking walks to check out the pretty color changing leaves and enjoying lots of fall food!




We took a walk around a park by our house and saw these beautiful trees on the lake.  Also I brought out my puffy vest.  Fall has arrived.

”trader


Gotta love some quick biscuits on a Saturday morning.  Cornelius gives his kiss of approval for this Trader Joe's product.  

We also attended a wedding of a childhood friend of mine out on the Chesapeake Bay.  It was beautiful.  The church had a really old (spooky?) graveyard.


We had to drive through this to get to the reception site.  I almost had a heart attack or panic attack while driving through this water.  I was sure I was going to wreck the car and float away into the ocean.  Had there not been a line of cars ahead of me driving I would not have gone.  There were smaller cars that had made it so I figured I was okay.  Maybe the photo doesn't do it justice - that water was deep!  Too deep I thought.  Luckily everyone got there safe and no cars floated away.

.

Gotta love a sparkler fest at weddings!  Mother of the bride got the idea from our wedding last year.  How cool!

”cookie

I recently made THEE best cookies ever.  They are probably my highest achievement in the cookie making department.  Just ask Tony.  I made them T sized.  This perhaps should be blogged under the category 'things I've made from pinterest' but I'll just tack it along with this post.  This is the famous New York Times chocolate chip cookie recipe and they did not let me down.  

”cookie

They remind me exactly of how I remember Mrs. Fields cookies used to be at the mall when I was really little.  That makes them heaven to me.  Print this recipe here out now and bake.  Seen on pinterest many times but one such is here.  The secret?  Probably this stuff:

How have you been celebrating Fall?

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