Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday Favorites

Painting Kitchen Cabinets - She gives some basics steps and shows before and after photos

10 Things To Know About Your Knife - such as how to dice an onion and to hand wash your knife

Il Modellismo, Istituto Burgo Milano - which is tutorial of fashion design for man, women, children's, with detailed descriptions, examples and drawings. In Italian and English.

Daily Quick Cleaning Check List - by Real Simple

Martha Stewart's Chocolate Pudding Cake - only 6 ingredients! And chocolate!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

5 Menu Planning Tips

Luna of Submissive Guide is doing a month of Domestic Service posts. She asked me to participate in it. And I was thrilled to be able to provide 2 posts. One was on menu planning which she posted last week and the other is a recipe that will be posted soon. But I did want to follow up with a few more menu planning tips.

1. No need to be extravagant - I remember when I first started meal planning and was looking through cookbooks and recipes online. I had big dreams of making wonderful meals every night. But one, our budget can't handle that and two, I can't handle that. I don't have the time to always cook a big meal. So sometimes grilled cheese and soup is good.

2. Theme Nights - Friday nights here is pizza or hamburgers and fries. Basically homemade junk food. Sunday often is a meat and potatoes meal or soup so that we can eat it for lunch during the week. Wednesday we usually have several appointments so it is left overs or something from the crockpot. I want to start doing Monday's as meatless nights. But think about what your family likes and make it a theme - Mexican, sandwiches, stir fry, breakfast for dinner, soup and salad or whatever theme you want.

3. Go-to-Recipes - spaghetti and meatballs, tacos, tuna casserole, pizza, goulash, chicken noodle soup, meatloaf and so on. They are your go-to-recipes because they are things you can make with your eyes closed so use them. No doubt the people in your household love them - so make your life easy and use those meals in your menus.

4. Repeat - When making a month menu, having spaghetti twice in one month isn't a big deal. Have your go to meals that you repeat a couple times a month. If you do repeat, think about making a double batch and freezing so that you don't have to cook down the road.

5. Use the Web - use google calendar, the resources I listed in the essay I wrote for Luna's site, recipes online, delicious to bookmark and keep things organized. It just cuts down losing paper menus, recipes and such when everything is organized online.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Recycling Greeting Cards

One of my girls at work gave me a wonderful idea for recycling Holiday Cards instead of throwing them away. St. Jude's Children's Ranch takes old cards and uses them to make new ones to sell to raise money. Cards should be 5x7 or smaller. They use just the front piece of the card and request that what you send not have anything on the back of that piece. I'm assuming they mean writing rather than any part of the greeting or pictures stamped on the back.

They DO NOT accept cards from Hallmark, American Greetings and Disney. Any other cards are OK.

The awesome part is that they don't just do Holiday Cards, but also Birthday, Thank You etc.

Mail cards to:

St. Jude's Ranch for Children
Recycled Card Program
100 St. Jude's Street
Boulder City, NV 89005

If you want to visit their website to find out more information or to purchase cards:

St. Jude's Recycled Card Program

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday Six....

Well... while we didn't have this weeks Friday Favorites, I do have Sunday Six for you :) With the new year here in our household it always brings about opportunities for growth and change. Right now I am all about ways to continue enjoying the wonderful life we have, but with conserving and saving where we can. With that in mind, I found the following links to be of value to me:

Light Bulbs By changing over most of our regular light bulbs to CFL lights we are lighting our house more efficiently and hopefully reducing our electric bill a little bit. After all every little bit helps. We are also trying to teach our three year old that not every light needs to be on in the house at the same time (she seems to want to light up America one bulb at a time). I found this site to have a great variety of bulb types and prices lower than that of my local home depot and lowes.

13 ways to lower your electric costs This article came out over the summer but I re-read it this past week and found there were some areas we could be changing our habits in to help reduce our electric bill.

Ways for the small business owner to save Another article that came out on Market Watch back in the summer but worth reading. There are many small business owners out there and some of these tips may be things you can implement into your business to save yourself some money and increase your profits.

Travel on a Budget If you are planning to do some traveling in 2011, here is an article that gives you tips and tricks on how to travel while on a budget. While you might not follow all of the tips, even changing one thing that you do may help to save you money.

Pellet Stoves for those of you who are looking for alternate ways of heating localized areas of your home, you may want to read this article about Pellet Stoves for an alternative heating solution. Our house is layed out in such a way that the lowest level of the house is always the coldest. As such we have to use other methods to heat that part of the house during the winter months. If we used our central oil heat system for that part of the house, our utility bills would be unaffordable, not to mention the rest of the house would feel like a sauna. We currently use an electric fireplace, but Himself is considering switching to a pellet stove. Just something to consider for heat and saving money.

Coupon Mom I am all about getting the most bang for my buck at the grocery store [or any store for that matter], and I LOVE LOVE LOVE this site and can't say enough good things about it. Check it out, try it for yourself, and see if you too can challenge yourself to start saving more money on groceries.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Vegetable Curry

I am always on the look out for new recipes and new foods for my family to try. Himself is pretty easy going about trying new things and my girls are not picky eaters at all. (thank god!) A friend gave me this recipe the other week for Vegetable Curry. I just got around to trying it and liked it so much I thought I would share it with all of you. It's been very snowy and cold here the past few weeks, and I love really hot yummy dishes that make the house smell great on a cold snowy day. So here is a great one to try, plus it's filled with wonderful vegetables that are good for you.

1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed (I would not recommend leaving the peel on as you won't get the same texture in your curry with it on)
1 medium eggplant, peeled and cubed
1 orange bell pepper, chopped (you could also use green peppers)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped (my preference is Vidallia onions, but any yellow onion would do)
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 tablespoon sea salt
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
1 zucchini, sliced
1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup blanched almonds (optional)
2 or 3 tablespoons yellow raisins (optional -- but my kids love it in there for a touch of sweetness)
10 ounces spinach

Cooking Instructions:

In a large Dutch oven place sweet potato, eggplant, bell peppers, carrots, onion, and three tablespoons olive oil. Saute over medium heat for 5 minutes. In a medium saucepan place 3 tablespoons olive oil, garlic, curry powder, turmeric, cinnamon, salt and pepper and saute over medium heat for 3 minutes.
Pour garlic and spice mixture into the Dutch oven with vegetables. Add the garbanzo beans, zucchini, orange juice, almonds, and raisins. Simmer 20 minutes, covered.
Add spinach to Dutch oven and cook for 5 more minutes. Serve!

I served the above with jasmine rice, but you could serve it with any type of rice or couscous if you prefer. Would also be good over mashed potatoes, but we prefer the rice.

Also if you like you can round out the meal with either a green salad or with something like baked peaches or a bit of broiled grapefruit. You can also serve with Naan or some other type of flat bread.

Enjoy :)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Kitchen Counter

I don't like kitchen clutter but it often seems like it is something that just happens. But one thing that I think at least helps make my kitchen counters not look so cluttered is nicer containers for the things that need to be sitting out. Here are a few of my containers....

The olive oil bottle has dish soap in it. The small little shaker in the front on the right that you often see at pizza places with peppers in it - has baking soda in it. I clean with it quite a bit so I shaking it on to a surfaces with this bottle is quick and easy. The sugar pour bottle on the left is dishwasher detergent. I really like having it in this bottle because I don't use as much as it comes out more slowly then the box it comes in.

I got the 2 smaller bottles in the front from Dollar Tree. But I have seen smaller olive oil bottles at Dollar Tree and Big Lots.

* As pointed out in the comments that these could be mistaken for sugar. If you, have kids or those in your household that you feel would, easy solution would be to label them. We have a label maker that I use all the time to label shelves and such and I can see using that on these as well but in our house we both know what is in them and it wouldn't be mistaken for anything other then what is in them.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Good Southern Sweet Tea

I am not a Southern girl. I was born and raised in the Midwest. For me, iced tea has always been the unsweetened variety. I prefer mine straight up, with lemon, no sweetener added. I had never even heard of Sweet Tea until I moved to the Washington, DC area.

For those of you not familiar with Sweet Tea, the sugar is added when the tea is hot to make sure it completely dissolves. Sweet Tea in the south ranges from lightly sweet to something akin to pancake syrup.

Although I am not a fan of it, my Sir is. And I learned from him and his mother the best way to make Sweet Tea and I wanted to share it with you. One of the big things I learned from Sir's mother was how to take the bitterness out of any brewed tea, sweet or not. The trick is baking soda, which counteracts the natural Tannic Acid in tea. The other trick that makes Sweet Tea better (according to Sir) is brewing it in a enamel pot.

So here's a list of what you need.

  • 1 Gallon Pitcher
  • 1 Enamel Pot
  • 1 Family Size Tea Bag
  • 1 1/3 cups of sugar (*this is how much Sir requires, some people want more or less)
  • Water & Ice
  • Baking Soda

Fill pot with water and add tea bag. Place on burner and heat till boiling.

While water is coming to a boil, place the pitcher in the sink add sugar. Add ice until about 1/2 full. When the water boils, add a pinch of baking soda and immediately turn off the stove, or else your pot will boil over.

Remove the tea bag from the pot and pour the tea into the pitcher and stir, adding cold water until the pitcher is full. Stir the entire time to make sure the sugar is well dissolved.

And that's all it takes!

** as a side note, cooled tea bags are good for puffy eyes.

Friday Favorites

Good Guide - I haven't had a lot of time to explore this but I did a bit tonight. I checked out a few products we use and some are above average to average. Basically it provides information about the health, environmental and social performance of products and companies. It also has an iphone app.

Organic: It's Worth It - It has some good articles and recipes on it.

Bread Pudding Pancakes - I made French Toast for dinner on Wednesday night and I should have made these instead.

Recipe Matcher - scroll down a bit to the quick search and you can type ingredients and then it will give you recipes to match those ingredients

Winter Sunflower and Oat Soak/Scrub - It is suppose to be good for dry itchy skin

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

I created a pizza dish the other day for lunch using the items I had on hand and it turned out so yummy I wanted to post the recipe here for you all.

Pizza dough (Today I used some pizza dough I had made previously and frozen, but you could just as easily use Pillsbury pizza dough, or one you make fresh -- any and all would work)
Left over grilled chicken already cooked. (I had about 2 cups of left over chicken that I cut up into bite size pieces)
Ranch Dressing (you could make your own or used store bought) -- you need about 1 to 1/2 cups
hot sauce (any brand works that you prefer -- we like ours super spicey)
shredded cheddar cheese (2 cups)

Preheat oven to 425*F
Mix cut up chicken with 1/2 of the ranch dressing, about 10 shakes of hot sauce (use more or less depending on how spicey you like thngs)
Roll out your pizza dough.
Spread remaining ranch dressing on the dough.
Spread chicken mixture on top of dough.
Sprinkle the cheese on top of chicken mixture.
Dash a bit more hot sauce on the pizza before popping it into the oven.
Bake for about 20 minutes, or until crust is browned and cheese is bubbling.

Remove from oven, cut into slices and enjoy.

We serve it with a fresh salad or carrot & celery sticks depending on our mood.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Holiday Traditions: New Year’s Superstitions

Most of us are familiar with the idea that eating Black-Eyed Peas on New Year’s Day is supposed to be lucky.

How about some other New Year’s Traditions and Superstitions?

• First Footer – If the first person to cross your threshold is a dark-haired man, it is supposed to be good luck. It is BAD luck if the first footer is a woman. Also it is considered lucky if visitors on New Year’s Day come bearing gifts, bringing prosperity to the household they are visiting. Conversely, nothing should be taken from the home on New Year’s Day (which makes me wonder where you are supposed to store the items you are taking to friends??)
• Along these same lines, your pantry should be stocked, your wallet have money and you should wear new clothes on New Year’s Day. A full pantry and wallet ensure you will want for nothing in the coming year, the new clothes, especially red, ensure good fortune.
• A favorite tradition of mine is that a few minutes before midnight, I open up all the windows in the house, to let the bad luck from the previous year flow out and good luck for the new year flow in.
• Do some work, but not dishes or laundry. Doing work shows that you are willing to work during the new year, but washing dishes or laundry is said to foreshadow a death in the family. However, do not start a big project on New Year’s Day.
• Baba Jaga (or Yaga) – Now I haven’t been able to find anything on this particular tradition, but I remember it from my childhood. My Polish step-grandmother used to say that on New Year’s it was good luck to make a Baba Yaga figure and put it on the front door. Baba Yaga is a witch in Slavic/Russian tradition. She is sometimes seen as an old hag who steals children, but is often portrayed as someone who you seek out for wisdom and guidance. My own Baba Yaga is a Styrofoam ball covered in strips of cloth, with a handkerchief tied around her head and buttons for eyes.
• My favorite New Year’s tradition is one that is said to bring luck and wealth. You burn a bayberry scented candle and while lighting it say the following charm.

A bayberry candle when burned to the socket,
Brings luck to the home and money to the pocket!

• All Holiday decorations should be taken down by January 5th, which is the 12th Night or 12th Day of Christmas (remember the song?)
• I mentioned black-eyed peas, but how about some other New Year’s Foods? The following foods consumed on New Year’s Day are all said to bring luck:
  • Grapes – in Spain it is lucky to eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight, one for each month of the year. If the grape is sweet or bitter, it represents how well that month will go for the person eating it.
  • Greens – Collards, Kale, Mustard, the green represents money, which we all want more of right?
  • Beans – Not just black eyed peas, but peas and lentils as well because they resemble coins.
  • Pork – different countries all over the world will eat different parts of the pig for New Year’s. In Sweden, it’s pig’s feet, in Germany, sausage, in a lot of different countries including Spain, Portugal and Austria, roast suckling pig is served. Pigs mean prosperity (again with the money theme!)
  • Cakes/Baked Goods - Sometimes with a hidden surprise (like King’s Cake in New Orleans that is served at Mardi Gras). In Italy they make fried dough called chiacchiere drenched in honey. I have a dim memory of my grandmother making these as a small child. Honey for a “sweet” New Year.

How about a few recipes?

Hoppin ‘ John

Traditionally served with ham hocks, I found a recipe that was slightly quicker and easier!

1 lb of bulk sausage, crumbled
½ small onion chopped
3 cans of black eyed peas, rinsed and drained
3 cups of chicken broth
½ cup – 1 cup water
½ tsp cayenne pepper
Dash of cumin
Salt and Pepper
Cooked rice

Place the sausage and onion into a large saucepan over medium heat, and cook and stir until the sausage begins to brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in the black-eyed peas, chicken stock, water, and spices, and bring to a boil, simmer till reduced Serve over Rice.

I had a hard time finding a chiacchiere that matched what I remember my grandmother making. Everything I found dusted them with powdered sugar or chocolate chips. Also, she never called them chiacchiere, but crostoli. I found out doing my research that different areas of Italy refer to the pastries by different names. The EASIEST way to celebrate would be to buy some Stella D’oro Palmiere cookies. These are the closest to what I remember Grandma’s tasting like (and my aunties used to buy them as treats for us when I was younger!)

However, if you really want to make your own…

4 cups flour
4 eggs
1 1/3 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
Dash of salt
Dash of dry white wine or grappa (optional)

Oil for frying
Sanding Sugar

Combine flour, salt and melted butter in large bowl. Add eggs one at a time and mix well. Add wine or grappa if desired. Let dough stand for about 1 hour, covered.

Roll dough into 1 inch balls, then roll out into a circle or rectangle

Heat oil, fry each piece of dough, turning twice until golden. Remove to paper towel to drain of excess oil, drizzle honey while hot, sprinkle with sanding sugar.

My name is Rheya. If you would have asked me 20 years ago if I saw myself cooking, cleaning, sewing and serving the needs of another over my own, I would have told you to get your crystal ball checked. I was not a girl whose idea of bliss was being domestically oriented. I shunned Home Ec! A lot can change can’t it? I’ve found my happiness though in just that, domestic service. I currently live in an area south of Atlanta. I work outside the home, so balancing the two is always a challenge. But I try to manage it all with a smile on my face and remember that everything I do is for His honor.

NOTE from Danae: I am very excited to announce that this will Rheya's last "Guest post" as she will be an official Domestic Servitude blogger.

A New Way To Save in the New Year

Happy New Year everyone!

Recently we had a post about ways to cut costs, save money, and it made me realize I wanted to post about how I saved a lot of money last year just doing what I normally do while on the computer. During my normal day when using search engines on the computer, I used the Swag Bucks search engine first for my searches. By doing this I won swagbucks, which are basically imaginary money/points that you can then trade in for real things, such as merchandise, gift cards, etc.

Last year with only using the search engine a few times a day for minimal amounts of time, I was able to earn enough swagbucks to get $300 in gift cards. It didn't take me any longer to use the computer than I was already spending. It didn't cost me a thing to do it, and I "earned" $300 cash money that I then used when I was doing my christmas shopping.

If you haven't heard of swagbucks, I suggest you try it out. If you have heard of it, but aren't using it actively, I suggest you start. Why not save/make money while you are doing the things you already do.

You can sign up here if you would like...


It really does work and work well. I wasn't a believer until it worked for me. Hopefully it can work for you in 2011 as well. Every little bit helps.


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