Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Maximizing Space

When I was organizing our junk drawer the other day (you can read about that here), I was once again struck by the resourcefulness of the carpenter who installed our kitchen.

I shared with you our kitchen remodel and some of the things that we did to maximize space.  There were also a couple of little things that our carpenter suggested that I thought I'd share with you.  These are fairly easy (I don't think that I have the skills to make it look as finished as he did) steps that can be taken today without a full remodel but will truly make these spaces easier to use.

The first area was our junk drawer.  The drawer is actually underneath our cantilevered breakfast counter.  I love the breakfast bar but was very disappointed to see how much of the drawer was not usable.  My biggest concern was the all the stuff we put in the drawer would get shoved to the back where we would never be able to get it at.

When I shared my concern, I was told "not to worry" because he would take care of it for us.  What he ended up doing was creating a false back for our drawer.  Using spare pieces of wood (plus the extra door from the project below) he created this drawer stop.  The unfinished pieces keep the finished front from sliding back allowing us a much smaller but more usable drawer.

As you can see, when the piece is in place you can't even tell that isn't the original drawer size!

The other thing that the carpenter did was open up one of our cabinets.  We had a similar cabinet as below in our old kitchen and found it completely unusable.  The cabinet itself was huge but the small opening made it pretty much impossible for easy access.  Unfortunately when we placed our cabinet order we found the the new cabinet was pretty much going to be the same.
When I whined to shared my concern with the carpenter I was once again told "don't worry, I'll take care of it".  He certainly did!

To solve our dilemma he cut into the cabinet, opening the door opening by about two inches.  He ordered us a new door front to cover the larger opening. He stained the freshly cut wood to match the existing finish.  The stain is not a perfect match but it's so close that you probably wouldn't even notice if you didn't know.  Plus, it's inside the cabinet so who is going to see it?

The cabinet is now big enough for me to get my mixer and food processor out without any problems!  There is additional storage to the left which isn't very convenient so I store items I use infrequently.

Moral of the story?  1) A good carpenter is worth his weight in gold.  2) It pays to speak up and express concerns to a person who has the ability to solve your problems!

You might also like:

Belle's Vanity Table
Solving the Wall Phone Dilemma
Decorating with Wall Words

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Usborne Book Giveaway

Stephanie, an Usborne Books representative, recently e-mailed me and asked if I would be interested in hosting an e-show. Ever since I can remember I’ve loved books and reading.  Fortunately I’ve passed on my love of reading to the kids and have raised a couple of voracious readers.  When my kids were little I purchased many a book from the Usborne Book Fairs at their daycare to help satisfy their appetite for books.

Since my kids are older, it had been a while since I had looked at Usborne books so I took some time to review what they had to offer.   Let me tell you, as I was perusing their website I was impressed by the wide selection of books they had.  Here are some of the things I like about Usborne books:
  •   HUGE selection of books at reasonable prices
  • Groupings by age allow you to easily shop for the special kid
  •  Lots and lots of learning books.  If there is a topic that your kid is interested in I’d be terribly surprised if Usborne didn’t carry it.
  • They support a lot of charities, from literacy programs and cancer research to local schools and daycares.  Proceeds from their Cuddle Bear book go to support the Scott Carter Foundation

As I said, the selection of books is huge but here are some of my favorites:

  • Are you buying for a kid who has a fascination with airplanes? I would recommend 100 Paper Planes to Fly with actual tear out pages for $7.99.
  • Do you have a kid who loves volcanoes?  Consider getting them a kit to make an actual volcano.  For $17.99 you can get the Volcano Kid Kit
  •  Want to teach your kid to cook?  Try out this free download from Usborne’s site for Pretty Pear Tarts.  You can find more recipes like this in the 30 Healthy Things to Cook and Eat for only $9.99
  • Entertain your kids with Green Gloop, just one of the many science experiments available in Usborne 100 Science Experiments for $15.99
  • Looking to educate your budding artist on famous paintings?  I love The Usborne Book of Famous Paintings which gives a simple explanation of some of the famous paintings that have helped shaped our view of the artistic world.
  • Learn about the ancient world.  As a lover of history I find myself wanting to buy the Encyclopedia of the Ancient World just for me!  Not only can you learn about the Trojan Horse and why Julius Caesar was murdered but you can also find out even more about them since this book has a special internet link allowing your kids to delve deeper into their topic of interest.
  • Does distance separate you from your kids or grandkids?  How about recording your voice reading either Twas the Night Before Christmas or Guess How Much I Miss You.  Better yet have your kids record it for their loved ones.

Here is a little blurb from the company website.
You are invited to an Usborne Books & More eShow to explore the world of Usborne and Kane Miller books. A child's interest in reading and learning is stimulated by the lavish illustrations and informative content. There are over 1500 bright, colorful and fun titles covering touchy-feely baby books, wonderful preschool picture books, early reading books, chapter books, reference books, sticker books, activity cards and a wide range of subjects for children of all ages.

Here is the link to my eshow, it will be open until August 29th.  Since this is an eshow, I will receive hostess rewards for any books that you may decide to purchase. Are you ready for the fun stuff? Stephanie has graciously offered a $20 gift certificate for one of my readers.  There are up to five chances to win.  

Here is how to enter:
1.        Leave a comment.  Even though not required I would love for you to check out Stephanie’s site and tell me what book(s) you would order if you win.  Hint:  There is also an opportunity to win $50 worth of books available on her website.
2.       Follow me on Facebook (leave a comment letting me know that you did)
3.       Follow me on Pinterest (leave a comment letting me know that you did)
4.       Follow me on Twitter  (leave a comment letting me know that you did)
5.       Receive Wonder Woman I’m Not via e-mail (I’m sure you know the drill by now!)

Giveaway ends August 29th.

I’d like to thank Stephanie for allowing me this chance to host the eshow and get reacquainted with Usborne books.  If you are looking for an opportunity to offer a show here at Wonder Woman I’m Not you can find the details at the top of the page.  Stay tuned for the September show which will feature Lia Sophia Jewelry with Heather as the consultant.  Heather and her daughter Breanna have actually done a live show for me so I'm excited to give them the opportunity to share their products with you.

Menu Planning

The kids are back from their week in St. Louis and I have to say that I'm amazed by how messy two kids can make the house.  Keep in mind these are two older kids who should know better.  Here's a sample of what my day has been like:
  • When I woke up this morning I was greeted to a mess in the kitchen consisting of a half eaten pizza, cookies still on the cookie sheet and every baking pan that I own out on the counter. 
  • This afternoon when I walked in the door from grocery shopping I tripped over four, you heard me right, four pairs for shoes!  Shoes that are suppose to be put away when they are taken off. 
  • Just a minute ago when I walked past the bathroom I happened to notice dirty clothes on the floor from today's shower.
OK, now that I've had my little tirade about my children (which all things considered I'll keep) I'm ready to go on to menu planning.

This week we're starting to get a little bit back into the swing of school.  Cross Country started last week with the first meet this Friday.  Later this week we have orientation for Belle while Michael's classes start Friday.  

The other thing that we have going on this week is we're debating going to see a show.  Our local performing arts theater has a popular broadway play going on this week that Mike wants to see.  I've seen it twice already but Mike and the kids haven't seen it.  Tickets are pretty expensive so I'm on the fence about it.

I've pulled my linguine/chicken in an asiago cream sauce into the lineup.  It's been a while since we've had it.  I don't know about Mike and the kids but I'm looking forward to it :)  You'll also notice that I did a cupcake this weekend.  I made a carrot cupcake which is without a doubt the best carrot cake recipe you will EVER have.

Without any further ado here is my plan for the week

I'll be linking this up at I'm an Organizing Junkie

Grilled Chicken Salad

One of my favorite things (besides steak) to get when we go out for dinner is a grilled chicken salad.  It's fairly healthy (if you don't go to heavy on the goodies) and taste pretty good.

The beauty of the Grilled Chicken Salad is it's super easy to make.  Lately it's been one of my 'go-to' meals when I'm looking for something fast.  I grill up a chicken or two over the weekend which helps get this on the table after work without any problems.

Grilled Chicken Salad

Lettuce (I personally recommend the spring mix but go with what your family likes)
Cooked chicken (here is my favorite grilled chicken recipe)
Mandarin oranges
Bleu cheese crumbles (you can substitute Feta if you prefer)
Glazed pecans (non-glazed nuts can also be used)

Throw into a bowl and top with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing (my favorite is Paul Newman).  I would recommend assembling the salad and let everyone add their own dressing.  This way if the salad isn't entirely eaten it should still be good for at least a day or two.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Are you ready for one of the best cupcakes ever? This has been a family favorite for a long time but it's the first time I've made it into a cupcake.

The cupcake is very moist with a variety of flavors. Nuts are an optional addition.

World's Best Carrot Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups canola oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups unbleached flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 - 7oz bag of shredded coconut
  • 1 - 8oz can crushed pineapple packed in juice, undrained
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 340, prepare cupcake pans

Mix oil and sugar in large bowl. Add eggs, beating well. In a separate bowl, sift flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Add to beaten mixture.  Fold in remaining ingredients. Pour into prepared cupcake tins and bake for approximately 25 minutes.  Cupcakes should be firm to the touch.

A couple notes from the Wonder Woman I'm Not test kitchen: 

  • I would suggest baking just a couple to start so that you can finesse the time/heat before going all in
  • These cupcakes cook a little darker than typical so don't get confused by the color.  
  • The oil in these cupcakes make specialty cupcake liners oily.  My recommendation is would be to either use traditional cupcake liners or no liners, making sure to use a well greased baking tin.
  • You can leave the coconut out if you prefer but I recommend leaving it in.  The coconut helps act as a binder and doesn't contribute much flavor.

Cream Cheese Frosting
4 tablespoons butter
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 teaspoons vannila
1 - 1lb box confectioner's sugar

Beat all ingredients until smooth. Spread over cooled cupcakes.

This recipe came from a cookbook called Great Taste No Pain.  A friend of mine has stomach problems and found some relief from following their recommendations.  This is an affiliate link

You might also like:

Pineapple Upside Down Cupcake
Applesauce Cupcake with Brown Sugar Frosting
Orange Marmalade Cupcakes

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Junk Drawer Organization

Anyone else have a "junk drawer" that resembles this?  It seems no matter how hard I try it's been impossible for me to keep it clean.

I like to think that I go through the drawer pretty regularly, get rid of the junk and then reorganize.  Hmmmm - is pretty regular every two years?  My fantasy was shattered when I found a ticket stub to "Dear John" dated 2010.  

Does anyone know the definition of crazy?  It's doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.  That's exactly what I do with my junk drawer.  I go through it, make everything neat and clean expecting it to stay that way.  

This time I decided to take a slightly different approach.  This time I took the 5S approach to my organization.

First step was to SORT.  Everything was taken out of the drawer and sorted.  In addition to the toolbox items pictured below, I also came across:  four flashlights, two old cell phones, 14 used inner cores from dog bags (I have to admit, those peeved me a little), three chargers/computer cords, a ruler & compass, five partially used battery containers and quite possibly a partridge in a pear tree.  No wonder I couldn't ever find anything!

Toolbox items that belong in the garage!

The second step that I took was to SHINE.  Typically shine is the third step but I like to clean the area before I start putting things back.  Cleaning the area pretty much consisted of wiping the drawer down with a wet rag.

The third step (typically the second) was to SET IN ORDER.  This is the step that always excites me.  Figuring out what didn't work and making it better.  To "set in order" I usually determine what my real problems are.  Here is what I determined:
  • Half used battery packs are thrown in the drawer.  The opened packages waste a lot of space and the batteries fall out making it difficult for me to know what batteries I really have
  • Writing utensils are thrown in the drawer getting caught in the mess.
  • Birthday candles fall out of the opened package creating waste (who wants to put a grubby candle in the cake?!?)
  • Current dog walking bags don't fit the two different holders that we have.  Loose bags were creating a lot of chaos

For me the solution was fairly simple.  I used baskets that I had bought at the Dollar Store (three for $1) to hold the batteries (eliminating the need to keep the packages) and the writing utensils.  I used zippered sandwich bags to contain the dog bags and birthday candles.  The scissors are situated between the baskets while I decided the flashlights and matches would be fine as is assuming the rest of the drawer was sustained.

The fourth step is STANDARDIZE.  Since this is our home I skip the standardize step, visitors would probably think I was nuts if I hung up standardization pictures!.  At work we take pictures of what the space should should look like every night.  I've found that having baskets so that the family knows where things should go works well for us

Finally, we'll need to SUSTAIN this change.  Overall my family is fairly good at the sustain part.  They aren't perfect so periodically I do need to go through and straighten up areas that I have 5s'd but it's usually only a straighten up versus a full blown project.

I guess the proof will be if I find a two year old movie stub next time!

Update:  A reader made me aware of a recent article she read regarding battery care so I did some checking.  According to the Rayovac and Energizer websites batteries should be stored in a cool, dry location (like a drawer but not in a refrigerator or freezer).  Ideally you would want to store the batteries in their original packaging.  If you do not store them in the original packaging you should definitely NOT store them with medal objects.  There is a risk of battery leakage or heat which could result in a fire.  If you don't store your batteries in their original packaging (which in my humble opinion needs to be improved if you want us to use the original packaging) you should make sure that the positives and negatives are all facing the same way.  Mixing them up (i.e. positive facing negative) could drain the batteries making them less effective.  Thanks Carol!

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Weekly Menu

This is an odd week for us, the kids left this morning for St. Louis to visit their great-grandparents.  I asked Mike this morning what he wanted on the menu, his response was "let's just eat out every night!"  I was on-board with that until he found a belated birthday present he wanted (and I had not budgeted for).  I gave him his choice, the toy or dinner out every night.  Of course he chose the toy.  Ugh - I guess I won't get away from menu planning after all.

Last week I played around with a pineapple upside down cupcake using a box cake mix.  How easy is that?  Be sure and check it out if you haven't seen it yet.

Here's what we'll be eating this week.

Grilled chicken
Salad (spinach, cold chicken, glazed pecans, Craisins, bleu cheese crumbles with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing)
Pizza on the Grill
Taco Salad
Fend for yourself (I have a meeting one night)
Dinner with friends

Since the kids won't be around dinner will be pretty casual.  We're keeping it pretty simple so we'll probably just eat when we feel like it versus trying to eat at a specific time.  Hopefully the weather will be nice and we'll be able to take some evening rides on the bike.

What's on your menu for the week?

I'll be linking up at I'm an Organizing Junkie

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Some Days it Seems as if the World Hates Me

Do you ever have one of those days where it feels like the world is conspiring against you?  The days where every time you turn around there is one more thing weighing you down?

I'm having one of those days today.  In addition to the headache I woke up with (the same headache that I've had for the last week and a half), the eye swollen shut (allergies) and my plugged up ear drum (don't ask me why), I walk into the living room to find this:

Yes, some naughty girls found a paper towel in the trash can that they thought was pretty interesting.  I guess it could have been worse.  Oh wait, it was.......

This would be the only pair of high heeled black sandals that I currently own.  This was going to be the last summer they were going to get me through but I did still need them for the next few weeks.  Mama wasn't very happy with those chewing pups.  Of course Mike's response was "I guess you should put your shoes away".  Really!?!  Having only one pair of work sandals would be the down side to living a simplified life

Then of course there are the kids who don't seem to know how to put a clean pot away.  In the cabinet.  Directly below the pot.  Are you kidding me?!?

The next straw would be when I go out to drive Belle to work and I find that I'm completely blocked in.  Ugh!  I really hate playing musical cars.

The smart thing at this point would seem to go to back to bed and pull the covers over my head.  Oh yeah, that won't work because it's sheet washing day and I thought I'd start the day out right by stripping the bed as soon as I got out of it.

That will teach me to be on the ball.

I hope all of you have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Pineapple Upside Down Cupcake

Pineapple Upside Down Cupcake is one of our family favorites.  I decided to try a cupcake version that would be a little easier to serve.  My son gave this recipe a thumbs up (his mouth was full of cake at the time so that's pretty much all he could manage).

To keep it simple I used a boxed yellow cake mix. Of course, your favorite from scratch recipe would work just as well.

Pineapple Upside Down Cupcake

  • 1 yellow cake mix (prepared to directions)
  • or your favorite from scratch cupcake base recipe
  • 1 large can crushed pineapple (drained - set aside juice)
  • 3/4 stick of butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar

In a saucepan over low heat melt the butter and brown sugar. Add the drained pineapple and let caramelize (about 10 - 15 minutes) stirring frequently so that it doesn't burn.

Prepare the batter and fill cupcake tins 1/2 full (if you aren't using liners be sure and thoroughly grease the muffin pan). Be sure to leave some of the batter as you will want to go and top off each muffin later. Drain excess syrup from the caramelized pineapple and add a small teaspoon full to each muffin. "Top off" the cupcakes with the remaining batter leaving enough room for the cupcakes to rise.

Bake according to the cupcake recipe you are using.


I'm going to give you two frosting options.  The picture above is option one but personally I prefer option two.

Option 1- Regular Frosting

1 stick butter
3 1/2 cups powered sugar
Pineapple juice drained from crushed pineapple
2 Tablespoons crushed pineapple (optional)

Soften the butter, add to your mixing bowl and cream. Gradually add in powered sugar until well blended. At this point add pineapple juice to get the frosting to the desired consistency. Fold in the crushed pineapple.

To frost the cupcakes put frosting in zip top sandwich bag.  Cut corner off and pipe in a circular motion over the top of the cupcake

Option 2 - Homemade Whipped Topping

1 pint heavy cream
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla

Combine cream, sugar and vanilla with mixer until stiff.  You will want to scrape the bowl down to make sure everything is well combined.

If you go this route just make sure that you aren't frosting until the cupcakes are ready to be eaten.  The whipped topping will not keep well on top of the cupcakes


This recipe has been featured at:

Twinkle in the Eye
House of Hepworths

Be sure and check out these sites for other great ideas.

You might also like:

How to Make Coaster Tiles
Applesauce Cupcake with Brown Sugar Frosting
Breakfast Bowls

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Weekly Menu

Guess how I started my morning?  I took a picture to give you an idea.  Yep, I was a muffin bakin' mama this morning.  Mike has some training and asked me to make a bunch of muffins for the team to eat.  When he first asked me I thought "Oh good, I can try out a bunch of new recipes for my blog" quickly followed by the second thought of "Are you crazy!  Use box mixes and just get the job done!".  With the exception of my blueberry muffin, everything is from a mix.  I ended up making Cranberry Orange, Banana Nut, Chocolate Chip and of course Blueberry.  They look beautiful - let's hope they taste great too.

Since Mike isn't going to be home for dinner this evening the kids (namely Belle) and I decided to pull out a winter dish and make Belle's favorite chicken and stuffing dish.  We certainly are shaking things up this week at the WWIN household, aren't we?

If I feel up to it I may try out a new cupcake I've been wanting to make.  Of course, after all the muffin baking I did this morning I don't know that I can stomach looking at another muffin tin right now :)  Here is my cupcake from last week.  This is a new recipe so be sure and check it out.

Applesauce Cupcake with Brown Sugar Frosting

Here's our menu for the week.
I tried something new this week.  I video taped a tutorial for some coasters which I'm giving away.  To enter to win the coasters and view the tutorial click here

I'll be linking up at I'm an Organizing Junkie

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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Tile Coaster Tutorial

A while back I was introduced to these tile coasters during a party.  Everyone at the party had the opportunity to make one.  I chose the word "SIMPLIFY" as that was a goal of mine at that time.  I'm still using it but haven't quite accomplished that goal!  These were so easy that I've been meaning to make a whole set but have never gotten around to it - until now.

I decided to try something a little different.  In addition to the step by step directions below I've also done my first vlog posting!  The video below will show you step by step directions to make the coasters.  A special thank-you to my son Michael who helped with this "production" and listened to his mother go through a few test runs before declaring my very first vlog to be "good enough".  Do you like the video tutorial?  I'd appreciate feedback as I look to evolve my blog.

Instructions for Tile Coasters

The coaster is made out of 4" floor/wall tiles with words rubbed or painted on.  4" tiles can be picked up at any home improvement store with a flooring section.  The smoother the tile the easier the words will transfer.  When I was shopping for tiles I came across these beautiful tumbled travertine tiles.  What I like about them is their imperfection.  However, the imperfection of the tiles also translates into imperfection when transferring the words.

Here are the items you will need:  4" square tiles, felt backing, rub on words, scissors, blunt edge object to help transfer.  I used a pan scraper but you could use a Popsicle stick or other object as long as it's not sharp.

With a damp washcloth, wipe the front and back of each tile.  On the back of each, in each corner apply a felt pad.  In this example I used a tile with a finished back.  If your tile has an unfinished back I would recommend cutting out a piece of felt (just a tad bit smaller than the tile itstelf) and glue it to the back so that the back of the tile has a finished look as well as not scratching the surface.

Decide which words you want and cut out being careful to leave the protective back on.  Decide which word you want on each tile and the approximate position.  Natural stone tiles (such as these) may have different colors running through them.  You will want to make sure that each set of coasters is similar in color

Peel the protect back off (be careful not to scrape the words) and position where you want them.  Because these tiles are "imperfect", I tried to maneuver my words where there weren't a lot of holes so they may not be perfectly centered.  Rub across the words fairly firmly.  When you believe that you have rubbed hard enough GENTLY start to peel away the film.  I've found that what works best is to keep your utensil on the film as you are lifting it.  If some of the word hasn't transferred it's then easy for me to put the film back down and rub some more until the word is transferred appropriately.  If you want you could use a small piece of tape to help hold down transfer paper.

If you want, at this point you could seal with a paint sealant.

Congratulations to Tammy, the winner of the coaster giveaway.  I've contacted you via e-mail for shipping details.

Are you ready for the Giveaway?

Beige coasters with blue friendship quotes
Beige coasters with pink and brown friendship quotes

Cream tumbled travertine tile with black print

One reader will win their choice of one set of coasters from the three options above.  There are five opportunities to enter:

1.  Leave a comment
2.  Follow me on Twitter
3.  "Like" me on Facebook
4. Follow Me on Pinterest
5.  Receive Wonder Woman I'm Not via e-mail (RSS feeder is on the right hand side of this post)

One winner will be picked at random and notified via e-mail.

Love these coasters but don't have the time or feel like your handy?  Check out the link above to my Etsy store.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Art of Raising Children

Guest Post by very.co.uk

If there’s one subject guaranteed to get most people’s goat it’s got to be the thorny talking point that is parenthood. Of course, you can moan about your children to your heart’s content, but woe betide anyone else who deigns to criticise or merely pass comment on your child-rearing conundrums.

You may well be unleashing a torrent of trivia about your tiny tot and divulging every detail of a current concern but that doesn't mean you actually want anyone else’s input let alone their advice. A comment from a well-meaning family member or friend who tries to impart the benefit of their wisdom is likely to be met with narrowed eyes and flared nostrils.

It’s often advisable to remember not to offer your advice to parents when they are complaining about their little ones. Just act as a receptacle for the moaning and mollycoddling and try not to look too distant or disinterested. Imagine how those long-suffering health professionals must feel being on the receiving end of a scorned parent, unhappy with some unwanted advice.

Unfortunately, a criticism of your child does feel like a criticism of you and very often a seemingly throwaway remark can feel like it has a sting in the tail. A thinly veiled criticism can easily be disguised as an observation. Whether your mother-in-law feels the need to divulge her disagreement with you on some aspect of your child-rearing choices, or an acquaintance can’t help but congratulate herself on her own motherly accomplishments, then the casual observation somehow feels like an insult. If you question the intention behind the comment, then the observer can feign mock horror at your absurd sensitivity.

After all, whether we intend it or otherwise, our children are an extension of us until they are old enough to state their own independence – a day many of us secretly dread. If a father chooses to wear something in a Fred Perry pastel shade, then you can almost guarantee that the son will be seen sporting a gothic get-up. You spend your life defending your child-rearing choices from the critical gaze of onlookers, only to end up on the receiving end of daily criticism from the very children who you defended – a perfect example of Catch 22!

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Any links contained within this post are not my affiliate links

Monday, July 30, 2012

Applesauce Cupcake with Brown Sugar Frosting

 I originally found this recipe on Better Homes and Gardens.  This was the dessert I chose to serve last Friday during my get together.  They were a slightly dry cupcake so next time I make them I'll probably add a little more applesauce or maybe even a couple drops of apple juice.  My applesauce was homemade so it may be that it didn't have as much liquid in it as a traditional store bought applesauce.

The original recipe didn't call for the glazed walnuts but I thought they were a nice addition to the cupcake.  I've also marked the nutmeg and cloves as optional since my personal opinion was they detracted a little from the cupcake.  If you love nutmeg and cloves leave them in, since I'm not a huge fan I think it would taste better without them.

After I frosted the cupcakes I added a dried, cinnamon apple chip to the top.  Any brand will do but my favorite is Seneca Crispy Apple Chips.  If you haven't tried them yet you're missing out!

Applesauce Cupcake

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup shortening 
  • 1-1/3 cups applesauce (I would recommend chunky so you get bits of apple)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon baking power
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (optional)
  • 3/4 cup raisins (optional)
  • Glazed walnuts (optional)
Brown Sugar Frosting
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2 cups sifted powered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Milk (optional)

    1. Preheat the oven to 375 degree F. Line eighteen 2 1/2-inch muffin cups with paper bake cups; set aside.
    2. In a large bowl, beat granulated sugar and shortening with an electric mixer on medium speed until well mixed. Beat in applesauce. (Mixture will appear curdled.) In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, and cloves. Beat into applesauce mixture. Stir in raisins and walnuts.
    3. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full.* Bake in the preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool in muffin cups on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove from muffin cups. Cool completely on wire rack.
    4. For frosting, in a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar and butter. Cook and stir over medium heat until melted. Remove from heat. Stir in powdered sugar, the 1 tablespoon milk, and the vanilla. If necessary, stir in enough additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, to make spreading consistency (if frosting thickens, stir in additional milk).

    Note:  Sifting the powered sugar will make the frosting smoother.  I didn't sift the sugar but I did beat the frosting extra well.

    Frost cupcakes. Makes 18 cupcakes.

    Test Kitchen Tip: If all of the cupcakes do not fit in the oven at one time, refrigerate the remaining cupcakes while the first ones bake.
    nutrition facts

    • Servings Per Recipe 18 cupcakes
    • Calories253
    • Total Fat (g)8
    • Saturated Fat (g)3,
    • Cholesterol (mg)10,
    • Sodium (mg)109,
    • Carbohydrate (g)46,
    • Fiber (g)1,
    • Protein (g)2,
    • Vitamin A (DV%)0,
    • Vitamin C (DV%)0,
    • Calcium (DV%)0,
    • Iron (DV%)0,
    • Other Carbohydrates (d.e.)3,
    • Fat (d.e.)1.5,
    • Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Weekly Menu

I don't always enjoy meal planning.  While I definitely see the value in having a menu,  the thought of having to actually create one taxes my brain sometimes.  Of course not having a plan taxes my brain when I'm standing in front of the refrigerator contemplating what to serve for dinner.  I also find my lack of creativity a little disturbing.  There are so many different foods out there to cook and I seem to resort to the same items! Maybe one of these days I've venture out of my comfort zone but it certainly isn't going to be this week.

This is a fairly quite week but I do have at least one meeting.  I'll plan on that being our fend for yourself night.  Otherwise it's going to pretty much be more of the same old thing.

Brats, salad, corn on the cob, strawberry shortcake
Grilled chicken, strawberry salad, potatoes, Texas toast, cranberry relish
Hamburgers, applesauce, tomatoes
Fend for yourself x2
Dinner out

Of course, it helps if you're serving brats to have those little things called brat buns!  I sent Michael out to buy the corn but forgot to ask him to buy buns.  I like to buy my buns the day that we use them 1) so their fresh 2) I don't like waste.  The poor kids needed to eat them without buns.

That's what we're eating this week.  What's on your menu?

I'll be linking this up at I'm an Organizing Junkie

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Wonder Woman Complex Lives On

I've mentioned my Wonder Woman complex before to you, hence the blog name to remind myself that "Wonder Woman I'm Not".  Sometimes, however, the inner Wonder Woman wanna be rears her ugly head.

It all started innocently enough a couple of weeks ago during one of our Mile High Club Meetings.  We needed to do a full day workshop (Teaser - we are working on a really fun project that I can't share with you yet.  I'm REALLY excited about it).  As I hadn't hosted a meeting yet and my commute makes my home a little undesirable for our after work get-togethers, I offered to host the workshop day at my house.

Here's a little bit of inside knowledge about me.  I love hosting but my inner perfectionist tends to come out.  A lot of thought and effort usually gets put into the event.  Sometimes to the point where I've spent an obscene amount of money on specialty items.  Like the personalized M&M's I bought for my son's graduation party.  I thought my husband was going to have a stroke when my uncle was eating them by the fistful :)  Point is, I love entertaining and I really want to make it special for my guests.

Prior to the event I spent time thinking about what everyone likes to eat.  The best way to serve.  What dishes to use.  How to decorate my desert.  How beautiful everything would look.  Anyone else out there suffer from these delusions of grandeur?

I decided on my blueberry muffinszucchini muffins and fresh fruit for breakfast.  Lunch would be a breathtaking salad of mixed greens, chicken, glazed pecans, Craisins, mandarin oranges and blue cheese plus a selection of fine cheeses, lunch meat and fresh baked bread.  Snacks were to be fresh baked cookies as well as chips and dip.  All of which would be beautifully plated, ready to be placed on the table at the appointed time by the calm, wonderfully coiffed hostess wearing her June Cleaver dress and pearls.  The piece de la resistance would be the spiced applesauce cupcakes I made.

The reality?  I woke at up 5am to start cooking.  I immediately burnt a batch of cookies.  The second batch was at least edible if not totally appealing.  When I went to grab the french bread out of the fridge I noticed I bought one pizza dough and one bread instead of two breads.  "Don't worry" I thought to myself, we'll just stretch the bread.  That would have worked out fine if I wouldn't have burnt the only loaf I had to a crisp.  My blueberry muffins would not release from the pan and the zucchini muffins were pretty much a figment of my imagination.

At 8am (when they were suppose to arrive), my hair was wet and scraggly.  The kitchen was a mess and smelled like burnt garlic.  I hadn't plated any of the food and I realized I never did buy the chip dip.  What was I going to do?

Then the phone rang.  It was the ladies.  Thankfully they were running a little late and yes, they were more than happy to stop by the store to pick up bread and chips.

By the time they arrived I had managed to dry my hair (somewhat), clean the kitchen and light a candle to hide the garlic smell.

You know what?  Not one of them cared that we ended up eating lunch meat out of a package or that they had to assemble their own salads.  My friends weren't expecting Wonder Woman, all they wanted to a fun day with a relaxed hostess.

I guess I just need to repeat more often "Wonder Woman I'm Not, Wonder Woman I'm Not, Wonder Woman I'm Not".

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Redecorating the Living Room

Well, we finally did it.  After years of nagging discussion, Mike and I finally got around to redecorating the living room.  We've been in this house 19 years with the same white walls, the same bland window treatments, the same entertainment center and the same furniture (albeit with a slip cover re-do a number of years ago).

I'm going to let you in on a secret, my husband hates change.  The running joke is that what makes our marriage so successful is getting a new wife would require A LOT of change.  When he looks at something that is horribly outdated he really just doesn't see how bad it looks, until he sees how wonderful it can look!  I love how every time I twist his arm convince him to redecorate he admits how great it looks.  Of course he then adds (tongue in cheek) "I don't know why you didn't ask me to do this sooner?"

Here is what we had to work with.

The view of the living room from the dining area

Sorry - I forgot to take the "before" picture before Mike started.  This at least gives you the general idea of what our entertainment center wall looked like.

Don't you love the white on white? I did intend to put up a valance when I bought them.  19 years ago.

As you can see we had a lot to do.  I also wanted to keep our budget down.  The good news - we spent $415 to accomplish this transformation!

Here is where we spent our money:
  • Window treatments - $175
  • Paint - $65
  • Art work - $145
  • Cushions - $30 for zippers (the material was purchased four years ago with Christmas & birthday money)
Here's the after pictures.

View from the dining area

New TV & stand replacing the rather large pine entertainment center 

New window treatments

Window Treatments
     If you look closely you may notice that the window treatments are the same as in our kitchen.  Since our living room and kitchen/dining room open up into each other I carried the same color palette through both rooms.  I fell in love with these curtains a number of years ago but put off buying them for the living room because of cost.  

     Murphy's law - when I went to Lowe's to pick them up they were gone.  Discontinued.  No longer available.  Have you ever seen a grown woman throw herself on the floor and howl?  Fortunately the patrons at Lowe's didn't get to witness that either although I was pretty close.  Do you know what stopped me?  I spied the bargain bin with them marked down to........$5 a piece.  While it took me trips to two different Lowe's I was able to find all the pieces I needed for $25.  

     For the blinds I used Levelor Wooden Blinds that are custom cut in the store.  MUCH cheaper than special order and they'll cut them while you wait.

     When it came to picking out the paint color, the experts recommend using using varying shades of the same color for rooms that flow together.  The wall that the TV sits on is connected to the red wall in the kitchen so we decided to carry the red all the way through.  I also took the other kitchen paint to the store and asked for the same thing only half color.  Guess what, you can't tell the difference!  We should have just used our existing paint and saved ourselves some money!  That's ok, it's painted and that's all that matters.

     While there was no financial cost for the actual painting,  the physical and psychological costs were astronomical.  At least once an hour I heard "Have I told you how much I despise painting?"  to which I would answer "Why didn't you tell me before?  I would have NEVER asked you to paint if I would have realized how much you disliked it."  There is also a little matter of a sore wrist (requiring the appropriate amount of sympathy), however since he broke his bench pressing record today he no longer gets to complain about the sore wrist.

     When we first moved into our house we bought This End Up furniture.  It's served us well and we still like it.  The downside is even though I've requested multiple samples I haven't been able to find cushions they make that I like.  Plus it would cost about $1,000 for us to buy the new cushions through them.

     A few years ago I decided that I would make slip covers for our cushions instead.  For about $300 I bought enough material for 10 cushions.  You'll notice that the floral cushions are the same in the before and after picture but I did actually re-make them.  The before cushions were made 2-3 years ago and were faded so I made the  new ones.

     Since the material was bought a long time ago with Christmas money I didn't include it in our cost.  I did however break down and buy new zippers.  My original thought was to reuse the old zippers and write about frugal ways to decorate.  My tip - buy new zippers.  You'll save yourself a lot of headaches!

     Gordman's is where we buy most of our prints.  Did you notice the two floral prints?  They both had minor scratches on them.  When we got to the checkout I pointed them out and received an extra 20% off.  Mike took a red Sharpie to them when we got home, you would never know they were damaged!  The picture above the TV is my absolute favorite!  I'm going to keep my eye out for matching smaller prints and potentially swap them out for the poppies down the road.

TV and Stand
     I did not include the TV in the cost of the redecorating because that was something we would have bought whether we redecorated or not.  Last year our TV broke, we didn't have the money to buy the TV we wanted.  Our solution was to buy a new TV that would work in our bedroom (we needed a new TV there as well) and use it in the living room until we could afford the TV we wanted.  

     We didn't have quite enough money saved up to get the exact set-up that we wanted so we compromised a little bit.  We bought the TV and stand that we wanted but didn't buy the Blu-Ray player or a new receiver for the surround sound.  We'll continue to save the money and pick those up at a later date.

General redecorating tips

  • Focus on what's important to you - The blinds were a "must" in my decorating plan.  The cushions were pretty worn and would have had to be replaced sooner or later, the paint was something I wanted but not required and the TV wasn't a necessity at all.  When working with a limited budget I would recommend prioritizing your wants/needs and then working down the list.
  • Reuse what you can - you'll notice that I didn't change my lamps, shelves, vases, etc.  I still like them and they still fit in with my decor.  By not replacing the knickknacks I saved myself quite a bit of money
  • Re-purpose items from different rooms - see the candle on the coffee table?  That was actually in a different room but wasn't working that great.  I've moved it to the living room and like it MUCH better.

Since we finished the room I've decided that the front door sticks out like a sore thumb.  Guess what's next on the list?

Vacation Week Goal Update

Well, vacation week is over and we're back to work.  While I didn't get all of my list done we really kicked it in to gear and got quite a bit accomplished while still having some fun.

The highlight of my vacation?  My living room was completely redecorated.  I was hoping to paint, finish my cushions & get new windows treatments.  Not only did we do those things but we bought new prints and a new TV/entertainment system.  It really looks amazing and I'm very appreciative of the work Mike did.  I'll be writing about what we did and showing you my before and after pictures.

We did have some fun.  We had a frugal afternoon at Cabela's and took in a minor league baseball game.  Mike and Michael were picked to do a fun stunt on the field.  I'll be posting about non-expensive ways to attend a baseball game and I'll include some pictures of them battling it out.

Here is my original list and how I did under each category.

Laundry Room (I've been struggling with sustainability and need to get it up to snuff)
Master bedroom Closet
Basement Closets
Coat closet (I'm embarrassed to admit but we still have some winter coats in there!)
Movie room credenza
Utensil Drawer
Garage organization

I started to do some work in the laundry room but since that's the only unfinished part of our basement it becomes the staging area when we're purging.  With all the work we've done we have a pile for Goodwill as well as some furniture that we no longer need.  Rather than wasting my time in that area I'm focusing on getting the rest of my projects finished and then will work on re-organizing that area.

I feel pretty good with the three organizing projects that I did get done.  I took before and after pictures of the credenza so I'll be writing about that in the near future.

Finish couch cushions (I know, this has been on the list for a long time but I really mean it this time! :)
Window treatments for living room
Replace computer desk in basement (This is half done.  I purchased the replacement bookcase but didn't have a chance to get it up yet)
Paint living room
Hang print we recently bought

Holy smokes Batman - we totally kicked butt in this category.  I've been nagging mentioning to my husband that we needed to redecorate the living room.  We've lived in our house for 19 years; we still had the original white walls, original window treatments and quasi original furniture.  I say quasi because this is our original furniture but I have bought at least one new cushion set for them.

Re-decorating the living room took us two full days.  Because of that I wasn't able to finish unloading our computer desk and put up my new bookcase.  I'm hoping to get to that this week yet otherwise it will probably be a couple of weeks before I finish.

Since we no longer needed our bedroom TV in the living (long story) we were able to move it into the bedroom and finally get it hung on the wall.  Let me tell you, hanging a TV isn't as easy as they lead you to believe!  The changing of the TV's was a minor redecorating project itself which I'm not quite finished with yet.  One more thing to add to my to-do list!

Mike also fixed our garage door opener.  With all the work he did, I didn't have the heart to mention that we still needed to hang our new print in the basement.  I'll probably let that slide for a couple of weeks :)

Freezer Cooking
Breakfast bowls (I'm trying to wean myself off McDonald's!)
Shredded Chicken
Mashed potatoes
Cranberry relish

I did do some freezer cooking but I just wasn't in the mood to get crazy.  I'm going to admit to a couple of lazy mornings where I didn't do much but sleep in and watch Ancient Aliens.  However, I did get my breakfast bowls made which you can read about here.  I also made up two batches of applesauce which made my kids pretty happy.

General Upkeep
Garage door trim (paint)
Replace garage window
Basketball hoop (paint pole)
Stain front porch slider
Clean out and re-plant side bed

The first half of our vacation was so hot that we didn't do anything outside.  Once the heat broke we took advantage of the cooler weather to take the kids to a baseball game and then spent two days on the living room.  What that means is we didn't get anything done on this list.  Do I at least get credit for buying the stuff to do the front porch slider?

Write posts
Buy dishes for food pictures (I thought I'd check out Goodwill to add some visual interest to my pictures)
Buy a new computer
Update various aspects of the blog itself

I actually spent quite a bit of time blogging.  I didn't get as many posts in the hopper as I wanted but that's OK.  The new computer has gone on the back burner and I didn't buy any dishes.  However, I have created a new Christmas portion at the top.  Since I seem to write so much about the holidays I thought I'd give the holiday it's own label!  I'll be adding to it but check it out and let me know what you think about it.

New Recipe Trials
Mango Ice Cream (I found this recipe I wanted to try out)
TBD Cupcake

I did make the mango ice cream (you can read about that here) but I didn't get to the sushi or the cupcakes.  

This Friday I'm having a get-together at my house so pretty much all of my goals for the coming week revolve around getting prepared for that!  Of course, I'm hoping that part of the preparation includes getting my new bookcase up but it won't be the end of the world if I don't get to it.

Have you done anything fun around the house lately?