I'm so glad you stopped by. Whatcha see is whatcha get. I value your comments! Together we can be great.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

52 Weeks of Organizing

Before I even begin, I am going to
apologise for the atrocious

I actually took them with the computer
because I wanted to get the post
up ASAP.

The plan is to go back with the good
camera (and in the daylight)
to take better pictures and just
edit the post later.

Good luck with that.

One of my new favorite blogs,
is having a challenge of sorts.

52 Weeks of Organizing

SHE actually enjoys organizing.
I'm not completely sold on the process,
I do like the results.


I'm gonna try it. 
What's the worst that can happen?
I do nothing...just like
the nothing I've been doing the past
10 years? 

I was supposed to come up with a list.
52 projects.

I couldn't come up with 52.
Just coming up with 4
made me slightly twitchy.

Will I be able to do this in one week?
What if something "comes up"?
It would really ruin me if I started on
project 1 and didn't get it done in time
for project 2...
The perfectionist in me would scrap
the whole ordeal.


I have 4.
And here they are.

1. Organize the landing on the way down to the basement.  Previous owners installed shelves here that are SO NICE (well, not nice looking, but a nice thing to have on the landing of the stairs) I just can't seem to decide what exactly to use them for.  Because I can't seem to decide what to use them for...everything that is SUPPOSED to go to the basement but we are too lazy to take all the way down there makes a pit-stop here.  And then never leaves.  I think I would like to use these shelves as extra pantry/kitchen storage.  Extra boxes and cans that we pick up when Price Chopper has a sale. Extra kitchen machines and pans that maybe I don't use often enough to constitute them taking up precious cupboard space, but I don't use them so little that they require long-term storage or a trip to the Salvation Army.  Here is how it looks now:

I was trying to show you how the disaster has moved from the shelves and spilled across the actual floor of the landing...making it a real hassle to even get in the basement at all...in fact, the other day I smacked the edge of my kneecap on that stupid crock-pot there and it brought tears to my eyes.  How awful it would be if we had to have a furnace person or plumber come fix something down there!

2.  This picture is even worse than the basement picture because it's so dark, but hopefully you can see it.
     The second project is going to be my front porch.  I think I secretly have not accepted that the previous owners decided to enclose this space.  Yes, it is nice in the winter...it gets all nice and warm from the son and probably really helps keep the front of the house warm.  But the rest of the year I really wish it were an "outside" porch like it was originally meant to be.  Because of this, I believe I subconsciously ignore it.  We use it for, well, anything we don't need that we can't fit in the basement... So the kid's bicycles are out there, their scooters and skateboards, some chairs we can't fit in the house...my favorite: the exercise bike.  Everyone has one of those to hang clothes on right? I do have a little decorative ladder out there that I used to do up all nice, but since our recent home-improvement project, that has been inaccessible.  The picture only shows a tiny sliver of the clutter.  Maybe when the light is better I can get a "whole porch" picture so you can really share in my utter embarrassment.  I guess this is another place I need to make a decision about how I want to use the space...and commit to it. Oh, and accept the fact that the porch is enclosed and not a southern-style veranda!

First and foremost, this is the first thing people see when they come to my house!  This is unacceptable.

3.  The third project is in my DD's room.  Her room is the nursery.  It is TEENY TINY.  We are biding her time in there until my oldest leaves in 5ish years...then she can inhabit his room for the rest of her time here.  But until then, she gets her very limited space.  I want to concentrate on her "toy box".  Somewhere along the line, someone figured out that it was safer to have these collapsible storage units for children.  I do see the genius in it, since my second son was good for taking hard-sided objects, stacking them up, and climbing them to get toys near the ceiling of his room.  However, they stink. Or maybe we stuff too many toys in there?  Whatever the reason, I aim to organize her toys.  I need to find a way to organize them that makes it WAY EASY for her to put them away, but that looks nice when they are put away.  I'm thinking a cubby unit from Target...but we'll worry about this when it comes time to start the project.  Here is the "before" picture:

Quite fuzzy, I know.  Sorry.  This space is actually behind her door.  So whatever goes in there will need to allow the door to open enough to safely get into and out of the room...

4.  And the final project that I have planned so far is my DS #2's room.  Now at this particular time, his toys are ALL OVER...and that will probably make the list also.  But before I get to that, I would like to organize his DRESSER.  To be honest, I would like to just chuck the dresser and buy him a new one...but I'm having a buy nothing year...so unless Salvation Army comes up with a promising one...we'll have to see what we can do with this one.  Let me just say:  those units they sell with the nursery furniture...the ones that "grow with your child"?  Don't buy them!  Unless your child is normal.  My child (he's the climber) broke his years ago climbing into the drawer to get on top of the dresser to....I don't even know what.  Maybe we can just put a new slider in it.  Regardless, we need to weed out clothes that are too small and figure out a  way to organize what is left in a way that he can start to put his own clothes away...and if it is possible, in a way that when he picks his clothes out for the day he doesn't un-fold everything in the drawer EVERY DAY.  Is this a pipe dream? Maybe we can use cubbies from Target for this too?  Those would fit right into his closet and give him TONS of room! Oh right. Buy nothing...unless it's necessary!!  lol.

See what I mean?  The bottom drawer is open because it's too hard for him to close himself...The rest of it is probably my fault...a started project gone wrong.  Now, if I do get the top of this cleared off, I need to think of SOMETHING to put on it to hopefully dissuade him from climbing up there...any ideas?

Well, that's all I've got.  Do you see now why I'm concerned that these projects will take more than a week?  I left extra room on my handy-dandy list just in case.  Just writing them down and seeing the embarrassing pictures has given me several other projects to tackle.  I cannot wait for the AFTER pictures!

There you have it.
A month's worth of projects for 2011.
The plan is to try to spend an hour
a day on them and no more.
We'll see.

Fly on over to
to start your own
52 weeks of projects!

Just Amy

Monday, January 3, 2011

Making Yogurt With "Brothers and Sisters"

I have recently been successful in making
a batch of Greek Yogurt.
I've made my own yogurt regularly before,
but paused for a bit...
and came back wanting Greek!

So, I want to share with my dear reader(s?)
how to accomplish this
while watching your favorite Sunday
evening program on T.V!

If you love Greek yogurt as I do,
it HAS to save you some cash making
it at home - since it's $1.19
for 6 oz...

So here it goes. 
I will just give a straight procedure
exactly how I do it first, and
then some variations I
have tried...and
maybe some I have not yet tried.

I should probably put a disclaimer here:
I make yogurt all the time in my own home.
None of my family has ever gotten sick
from my home-made yogurt.

I am just a homemaker trying to cut some
pennies out of the family budget, not a
professional yogurt-maker.
So I put this up on this blog as general
info only.  Use common sense!
I take no responsibility for what you do in
your own kitchen.

There.  I said it.

You will need:
A quart jar (Ball or Mason canning jar), preferably with a lid
A medium size sauce pan
Milk (can use any from skim to whole)
The best-tasting plain yogurt you can find in the store - make sure it has live and active cultures in it (and don't try using already made Greek...it doesn't work)*
Small bowl
Wire Whisk
Somewhere warm to put the yogurt (heating pad, crock-pot, oven)

It is helpful but not absolutely necessary to have a candy thermometer (I actually use a candle-making one, and it hasn't failed me yet)

If making Greek yogurt you will also need:
Coffee filters


1. Fill the quart jar up with milk. Not to the top, because you will end up with slightly more at the end than in the beginning.  Mine has measuring marks on it, so I just fill it up to the highest measure.

2.  Pour milk into the saucepan and heat to about 150-180 degrees Fahrenheit.  The goal here is to try to kill any potential nasties that may have gotten into the milk to this point without also killing the good bacteria that is going to grow you some yummy yogurt!  So don't boil the milk.  If you do not have a thermometer, you want to take it off the stove just before the boiling point, but it should definitely be too hot to touch comfortably.  In my experience it takes roughly one segment of "Brothers and Sisters".  (seriously, that's when I check it. lol.)

3.  Once milk reaches 150-180 degrees Fahrenheit, remove it from the heat and let cool down to 110-115 degrees Fahrenheit.  This is the longest hands-on part.  It generally takes the rest of Brothers and Sisters to get cool enough, but check it on the commercials. lol.  If you have no thermometer, it should be cool enough that you can comfortably handle a drop on your wrist.  (I'd say what you would warm baby formula to, if that helps)

4. While you are waiting for it to cool, measure out 2 Tablespoons of your store-bought yogurt into the small bowl.  I am not real precise - sometimes it's slightly heaping, sometimes slightly less.  You want to have this ready to go because when the milk gets cool, you want to work quickly. At this point I also turn my oven on the lowest setting possible to get it warmed up.

5.  When your milk gets to 110-115 degrees Fahrenheit, take a little bit of it (say, a gravy ladle full) out of the pan and mix it with the store-bought yogurt in the bowl using a whisk.  Obviously, you can use a fork or whatever you have handy - just make sure to get it all incorporated.  Then quickly dump that mixture into the pan full of milk and whisk it around to get it all incorporated again. **

6.  Now dump the pan full of milk and yogurt culture into your quart jar, put the lid on. TURN OFF THE OVEN, and then place the yogurt carefully in the oven, turn the oven light ON and shut the door.  Now Brothers and Sisters should be done and you can go to bed.  The oven will hold enough heat to constitute a "warm place". 

7.  In the morning (anywhere from 8 to 12 hours later) *** take the yogurt out of the "warm place" and put it in the fridge. 

* Once you have successfully made a batch at home, you can use your own yogurt.  This is called chain-yogurting and each time you do it, the final product will get progressively more runny.  I have not actually tried chain-yogurting because I usually freeze the left over store-bought yogurt and use it again...and by the time we have used that all up, we are so sick of yogurt we need a break.  My yogurt-making sources say you can probably chain-yogurt about 4 times before something funky gets in there and you need to start fresh.  Again, if you freeze some of your batch, it could be months before you ever need to buy yogurt again.

** A lot of places that I have found yogurt recipes tell you to be careful not to disturb the skin that tends to form on the milk when you heat it...they make it sound like it will ruin the whole ordeal if you disturb this precious skin.  THAT'S BALONEY!  Whisk that stuff in there...I even take the skin off and it still makes fine yogurt.
     Also at this point, if you want VANILLA flavored yogurt rather than plain, you can add 1/2 tsp vanilla extract at this point.  I haven't tried this yet because I forgot to add the vanilla last night...but NEXT week, it's going in there!

*** Make sure you let it sit undisturbed at least 8 hours.  I accidentally took it out after 4 and ended up with slime....  I used it for smoothies, but the texture was not at all yogurt-like, and it hardly had flavor at all.  The longer you let it sit, the more tart it will get. I've learned that from experience too.  TART!


Okay, so now you've made your yogurt and are wondering how to get that luscious, creamy, almost-like sour-cream-tasting Greek Yogurt that you pay an arm and a leg for in the store. 

You're going to kick yourself!  lol.

Greek Yogurt is nothing more than strained yogurt.

1. Take a cup of regular, plain yogurt. (when I tried it I used my left over store-bought from above, so it was actually not quite a cup)  Place it in the center of a double-layer of coffee filters.*

2. Gather the edges of the filters, being careful not to rip them, and tie them together with a string that is long enough to also be tied to something to hang. (I used a ribbon from one of the kid's balloons. It's what I had on hand!)

3.  Hang it over a bowl overnight ** and voila!  You have Greek-style yogurt!  I believe if you leave it one more night, you get "cream cheese"! ***

* I used coffee filters because it was an off-the-cuff experiment.  All the sources say to use cheesecloth or a clean dish towel.  Next time I'm serious about the Greek thing I am going to relegate one of my brand-new flour sack towels that I've been meaning to embroider to the task.

** My sources don't ever specify WHERE to hang the yogurt... when I did my experiment I hung it right over my kitchen sink (boy the husband must have been wondering if I'd lost my marbles when he got up for work).  I ate the product and am still alive, so it doesn't seem to be a hazard to let it sit unrefrigerated overnight.  Next time I do it, I may try hanging it from the rack in the fridge to see if it makes a difference or not.  Also, if you are a non-waster like I am, you can use what drips out (whey) in your smoothie for breakfast. Just FYI.

*** If Greek yogurt is all you are interested in, you can just buy regular yogurt (which is much cheaper than Greek) and strain it yourself. 

Obviously with both regular and Greek yogurt, you will want to add sugar and fruit to taste...if you want flavored yogurt.  Have fun and enjoy the process!

Just Amy

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Being a Phillipians 4:8 Kind of Woman

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable --if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things.   Phillipians 4:8

This will be my focus for January.

Too many times I think I have
a conversation in my head that
goes something like this:

"This sucks."
"Why is this happening to me?"
"Why can't my life just be easy for once?"
"Does He really hate me?"
"Why can't I just do what I want"
"Why do I never get to have pretty things"
"I can't handle this"
"I give up!"

Okay, I lied. 
I don't THINK I have those
constant, on-going, TOXIC


I know it too well,
and even while I'm having them,
I know they need to stop.


So my focus at least for January
and hopefully through the year
will be to stop the
toxic monologue
in my brain.

I follow a podcast through
iTunes that offers guided
One of the things the lady says
that is supremely helpful for me
is that beginners mistakenly
think that the goal of meditation
is to stop thoughts
and just

But she says in her meditations:

"thoughts don't matter"
"do not get involved in making up a
story about your thoughts"

When my toxic train get's going,
that's exactly what I am doing!
I am making up a story about those
negative thoughts...
telling myself God doesn't love me
or God wants me to suffer
or God is unreasonable and expects
WAY too much from me...

But if I take away the story,
I'm just left with thoughts.
And if the thoughts just aren't TRUE,
then they are not from God.

Because God is Truth.

If I take away the story,
I'm just left with thoughts.
If the thoughts aren't LOVING,
then they are not from God.

Because God is Love.

If I take away the story,
and I am left with TRUTHFUL,
LOVING thoughts,
eventually, I will become
a truthful and loving person


As water reflects a face,
so a man's heart [thoughts] reflects the man.
Proverbs 27:19

...as water reflects my face,
so my thoughts reflect who I am...

or, to be cute and new-agey...

What you think about you bring about!

Just Amy

Saturday, January 1, 2011

How To Save Your Pennies

Here are my thoughts on how to make
this year THE year you finally
save some money!

  1. Do not buy anything new, unless absolutely necessary!
  2. Keep a running list of things you think you "need".
  3. When you've decided you "need" something, wait for a good deal. If you can't find a good deal, keep waiting.  I bet you will realize half the stuff you think you need, you really don't.
  5. If it's not on your list...don't buy it. Deh.
  6. If you see something you want, wait a week...if you still remember that you want it, put it on your list and revert to #2. I've heard this tip given as "wait a month" but I find that sometimes by then, you DO still want it but it's nowhere to be found...at which point I guess it could be argued that you don't NEED it if it's that fleeting...so go with what's comfortable for you.
  7. Try to buy in the off-season.  So get your spring clothes in the fall, winter clothes in the spring, etc.
  8. Barter.  Will someone till your garden in exchange for some of those peaches you put up every year?  You won't know 'til you ask!  Value is in the eye of the beholder.  lol.
  9. Re-think those items you feel are necessary.  Do you really need a power mower? Or can you use a hand mower?  Can you borrow your neighbor's? Get a cow or goat?
  10. Make it yourself with materials you have around already. Need a blanket? Take that box of old shirts destined for the Salvation Army and make a quilt! Need lined drapes?  Do what I do: hang quilts in the window. Seriously. Very cozy.
These are obviously just very basic ideas
for general penny pinching.
I'd love to hear your specific ideas
on ways you "make-do"

Without getting overly preachy,
I really feel as a wife and mother,
my job centers around assisting
my husband in this area. 
As the manager of the home, it is
important for me to use the money
my husband makes to the best of
my ability...and that means
stretching it as much as possible.
That makes my husband happy...
and makes him look good!  ;-)

Happy New Year!

Well, it is officially 2011.

For the past two months, I have been
working on my resolutions.
I definitely have the usual:


But also I want to work on a few
other challenges.

I am going to attempt a


I have wanted to do this for several
years, but I think it's time.

It will be real SIMPLE:

BUY NOTHING NEW for myself
unless it's
(for example should I need new undies, I am not
going to buy those used!)

I am also going to operate a


For those of you who are quilters or crafters,
you know that UFO
stands for

Un-Finished Objects.

You know:
Those projects you forgot about,
got bored with,
put down and never picked back up...
laying around
taking up space
and precious resources...
probably unknowingly occupying
space in your brain.
(no wonder you're so flaky!)

2011 is my year to finish the

I sort of started in December
when I got on a roll with
some scrappy projects off the cuff.

So anyway,
I am not only

but I will also be
finishing up any
UFO's around my quilt room.

Should be one interesting year!