Thursday, August 25, 2011

I'm Officially Breaking Up With Betty Crocker!

I grew up on box cakes, brownies and cookie mixes. My mother was a single parent of three for seven years, so the majority of the time, we did things the quickest way possible. Even my grandmother tended toward the mixes, instead of from scratch. Its not that they never made things without mixes, but it was a rare occasion. Therefore, when I thought of baking, it always started with a box, featuring a picture of your chosen project on the front.
Lately, I've been trying everything from scratch. Its an adventure! The upside is, though, once you have the basics in your pantry, you can make most anything on a whim, rather than having to go buy the kit at the store. Every pantry, even the novice, should have vanilla extract, baking powder and soda, sugar, salt, flour, unsweetened cocoa powder, powdered sugar, brown sugar, vegetable oil and you must have butter, eggs and milk in the fridge. Now, I'll warn you, there are many more traditional recipes, like pie crusts or breads that also call for shortening, so when you get really brave, you might invest in that, as well. These things are inexpensive and most of them have a long shelf life and you can keep them on hand for whatever projects you might want to try. Yesterday, I found this brownie recipe on the outside of my cocoa powder canister. Well, I didn't have a choice... I had to try it! Once I tasted the first brownie, I knew I could never go back. Here's the recipe, copied from, so I didn't have to type it again. This is a good reference site for lots of recipes. Hope you enjoy!

Chewy Cocoa Brownies
  • 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter or margarine, melted

  • 2 tablespoons water

  • 2 large eggs

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

  • 3/4 cup NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Baking Cocoa

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 3/4 cup chopped nuts (optional)

  • Powdered sugar


  • PREHEAT oven to 350º F. Grease 13 x 9-inch baking pan.

    COMBINE granulated sugar, butter and water in large bowl. Stir in eggs and vanilla extract. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt in medium bowl; stir into sugar mixture. Stir in nuts. Spread into prepared baking pan.

    BAKE for 18 to 25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out slightly sticky. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Cut into bars.

    Tuesday, August 23, 2011

    Just Call Me Mrs. Fixit!

    My washing machine filled up and then stopped working today. So I had a theory that it might be the lid switch. I messed with it enough to figure out that it was. Then I thought, I've got a load of laundry in water waiting to wash. I don't have time for parts and repair technicians, etc. I pulled the model and series numbers off of the washer, googled the brand and problem and found this very helpful video. All I needed was the instructions on getting into the washer so I could see with what I was dealing. When I realized that the trigger mechanism that engages the lid switch had broken off, I pondered the necessity of this switch. Then I did the only obvious next thing... I called my Dad. I told him I was thinking of bypassing the lid switch and needed to know if this was safe. He told me how to do it and, some wire strippers, electrical tape and a nut/cap later, voila! Problem solved.

    Now, if you are thinking that I have had experience with anything like this before, you would be wrong. What I have is a desire not to pay a handy man or save a honey-do list for my husband, if at all possible. Was this a little scary? Yes. However, I decided the the risk of royally screwing up did not outweigh the reward for fixing it myself and the brag rights. I must also mention that I prayed before and during this little project. The point is, there is no reason not to at least try. I look at it not as being too independent or a feminatzi, but remembering the pioneer women who helped build our country. They had husbands who may be gone for months at a time, harvesting or building or moving livestock. They couldn't let the daily household routine stop just because something didn't work. They had to roll up their long, homemade sleeves and figure it out. Next time you get the chance, before you call in someone to do it for you, look it over and think about how you might handle yourself. You go girls!

    Monday, August 22, 2011

    Real World Lessons In The Not-So-Real World Of My Eight Year Old

    Courtesy of
    In the past, we have tried several different incentive programs with our kids. We have required them to perform daily chores since they were 4 years old. Now, as they are getting older, we have decided to put them on the payroll, so to speak. My husband and I fell that they are at the perfect age now, having a firm grasp on their basic math skills, to learn about tithes and offering, as well as the value of the hard-earned dollar. Contrary to our many efforts to ground them and teach them that money doesn't grow on trees and to be good stewards of their belongings, they still seem to take for granted any treats or gifts. So, time for a wake-up call.
    This is the first week in which they will be earning a daily wage for their well completed tasks. Seeing dollar signs and already making a mental list of all the things she would be buying with her giant paycheck, my daughter came to me to ask how much they would be earn and when they would see the money. I explained what we would pay them each week for a job well done. This made her jump up and down with excitement. I then explained how they could expect to be paid biweekly, just like a real job. Immediately, her shoulders slumped, she stomped to the couch and threw herself down. "You said we would start getting paid this week!" she grumped at me. "I meant it. You will begin earning wages this week. You will not be paid, though, until pay day. This is how it works in any job, so you can learn it now." I replied. She did not like this answer. I reminded her that in our home, its not just the task at hand, but the attitude with which the task is carried out. I've told both the older kids that it is very important to do everything as though doing it for Jesus. I told them that if they always try to please Jesus with their thought, words and actions, they will always be rewarded for their efforts. It reigns true, in most jobs, if you are surly and hateful while at work, your evaluations will not go well and some times you will not remain in that job. It is difficult not to laugh, though, when they get so frustrated over silly little things, like not wanting to do the dishes. It's such a small moment in the vast expanse of a lifetime, that it seems ridiculous to throw a fit about it.
    Hopefully, if our encouraging them to keep a good attitude hasn't really worked every time in the past, money talks! Maybe when they don't get paid as much as they were expecting, they will be more motivated to try harder and stop sweating the small stuff. I am an eternal optimist!