Friday, February 25, 2011

For all the Georgia Folks

This is why I just have to laugh when Georgians flip out over snow. We got 7 inches last night just in the valley and guess who still had to dig out and go to work? Everyone in Utah. Fortunately, we had a bit of a casual work day which also involved a pizza party. Yes, even 20, 40, and 50-somethings can have them. And I love that in a small office, the age divide is virtually nonexistent.

Also, I love spontaneous date nights with my Samuel. Sorry for the dumb camera's lighting. Here we are enjoying Hibachi-style Japanese at Sakura. おいしい!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Change-your-life Honey Wheat Bread

This honey wheat bread has changed my life. Not only is it pretty dang easy to make, it's homemade and all-natural (and therefore one more thing to be proud of as a wife), the most delicious bread to ever exist for sandwiches and toast, and will save us money since I will never again (hopefully) buy store-bought bread! I usually make this on Sunday, but today being a holiday allowed me some more time. Today was try #3 and I think it turned out the best it ever has:

3 cups warm water
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
1/3 cup honey
2 cups white bread flour
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon salt
5 cups whole wheat flour, divided, plus more for kneading
2 tablespoons butter, melted

1. In a large bowl, mix warm water, yeast, and 1/3 cup honey. Add 2 cups white bread flour and 3 cups of the wheat flour, and stir to combine. Let set for 30 minutes, or until big and bubbly.

2. Mix in 3 tablespoons melted butter, 1/3 cup honey, and salt. Stir in remaining 2 cups whole wheat flour. Flour a flat surface and knead with whole wheat flour until not real sticky - just pulling away from the counter, but still sticky to touch. This may take an additional 1 to 2 cups of whole wheat flour. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to coat the surface of the dough. Cover with a dishtowel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled.

3. Punch down, and divide into 2 loaves. Place in greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pans, and allow to rise until dough has topped the pans by one inch.

4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 25 to 30 minutes; do not overbake. Lightly brush the tops of loaves with 2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine when done to prevent crust from getting hard. Edit: I have given up the butter baste because I figured out that I like the hard crust. It also makes it easier to slice. Cool completely
I like to mix in some old-fashioned oats and flax. When packaged correctly, this bread lasts us a week... and ONLY a week :). Enjoy!

P.S. I love this time of year when every bird song, every little bud on a tree, and every morning that I wake up and don't need a big coat hints toward Spring coming. I can't wait!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Homemade Valentine's

A bit late, but here's a recap of our Lovers' Holiday:

So, since being married, we've never gone out to celebrate Valentine's Day. Last year was a Sunday and a pretty destitute time, then the year before that our car was broken down AND we were snowed in. That being said, we've really gotten accustomed to a spending it at home (we quite enjoy it actually), and Sam always does a great job making it special. Maybe one day when we have kiddos at home we'll go out, but for now I like our tradition.

I woke up early before work to finish his "love chain" (reasons why I love him on strips of paper formed into hearts and linked together in a chain), make him lunch to take to school, and set out his box of Godiva chocolate. When I got home from work, we had already started dinner and waiting for me were 6 long-stemmed roses and some fun cake decorating tools I've been wanting.

We worked together to finish our delicious, candle-lit steak dinner while being serenaded by Sinatra, 

and later enjoyed some divine ganache-brownie-cake.

The evening was a little short-lived (thanks, Biology homework), but it's fine by me, because I have a handsome Valentine and plenty of reasons to be romantic all year-round. That's the great thing about love: you don't have to save it all for Valentine's Day! (You can hear that song, "Don't Save It All for Christmas Day" can't you? You're welcome.)

P.S. Here's a little gem of an idea for next year's decorating.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Laundry Soap Recipe

So I finally got around to using the last of our laundry detergent and got ready to start the homemade stuff. This was seriously easy to make, seriously cheap, and will last us a seriously long time!

You start with these:

1/3 bar Fels Naptha soap, grated
1/2 cup washing soda
1/2 cup Borax
2 gallon bucket for mixing
(I found the borax and washing soda in the laundry aisle at Walmart and each was about $2 for a 4lb. box. The Fels Naptha soap I found at a Buy Low Market and it was $1 or $2.)

  • Grate the soap bar with a regular cheese grater (it's kind of fun). You only need 1/3 of it for the first batch, so I saved the other 2/3 in a plastic bag.
  • Heat 6 cups of water in a large pot. I heated it until it was almost boiling. Add the grated soap and stir until melted.
  • Then quickly add the borax and washing soda. Note: The moment I added the soda, the mixture began to create suds. A LOT of suds! Plan to have the bucket near, so you can stir the powder into the boiling water for just a few seconds and immediately pour it into the bucket so it doesn't foam over the pot.
  • Add an additional 2 cups of hot water to the bucket and soap mixture and stir. Fill bucket to 3 inches from the top with cold water and let sit overnight.
When it has set overnight, the detergent should look kind of yellowy and cloudy like Egg Drop Soup. Shake the soap before each use. This batch filled up about 1 and a half empty laundry detergent containers and should last us about 2 months. Imagine what savings that adds up to, considering I won't need more borax or washing soda for a year!

Also, I thought I would want to add some kind of essential oil to make it smell better, but honestly, it smells fine as is - just like soap. Plus, dryer sheets are what really give your laundry that flower-y, fresh smell. I think this "recipe" was a winner!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

It Only Took Me Four Years

So, it only took me until I graduated from college, but I'm finally learning graphic design! One project at a time, I am doing web design and learning all the programs. It has opened up a whole new world to me, not to mention a whole other dimension to my job. This is good is so many ways.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


I've been thinking about this subject for some time. At Stake Conference today there was a lot of counsel about being financially responsible and being wise with our resources. I guess that has always been a popular Gospel principle for discussion while we've lived in BYU married student housing, but lately while looking at our expenses, taking note of our financial situation in the coming years, hearing our friends' discussion about it, and realizing how undisciplined we've been about spending, I made a command decision that I want to take a more active role in living this principle and find more ways to save and be self-reliant. And I'm excited about it!

Aside from creating a more strict budget and working harder to stick to it, I have a few ideas for how to rely less on buying and more on our own resources:

1. Making homemade laundry detergent. Thanks for the recipe Momma Shannon! After the initial purchase of the ingredients, the overall cost comes to about $.03 per load. It cleans just as well, you can add essential oils to make it smell nice, and it lasts you more than twice as long as regular detergent. I'll cook up the concoction this week and let you know how it goes.
2. Making my own homemade bread. I found this great recipe online and baked 3 delicious honey wheat loaves today. I plan to make this a weekly thing so we can enjoy homemade, all-natural bread for less than $1 per loaf.
3. I've started going crazy on coupon sites. I was surprised to see how many printable coupons were available for things I already buy!
4. We're usually pretty good about it, but I've really enjoyed making up lists of cheap or free date ideas. Here's a good one, though I can't remember which blog I found it on. There are so many interesting things to do and see if you take the time to look, and I've found that some of the best dates we've had together (picnicking in Rock Canyon Park, having a sleepover and Netflix Instant Queue movie in the living room, hiking up to the hot springs, visiting the Carl Bloch Exhibit, etc.) didn't cost us a dime. 

I have to say, I've always gotten sort of a high from getting a deal, and the idea of pinching pennies does the same for me. Is that weird? In the long run, drastic changes are hard to maintain (whether watching your weight, your money, or any habits), but I know that it's the little changes that make a difference over time. Here's to a new way of life!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Trouble With Groundhogs

Whether or not they see their shadow, here in Utah we still always have at least another month and a half of winter. A sad truth. Also, I'm pretty sure "groundhog" is interchangeable with poltergeists (or is it gnomes?) that turn off your alarm clock so you wake up an hour late for work and make your car have troubles starting in the cold. Maybe not, but that was my excuse this morning.

(Sidenote: I just noticed that I capitalize all the first letters in my titles. I guess that makes sense.)