Friday, September 30, 2016

How To: Make a Capsule Wardrobe (for Busy Moms)

There's been this big fad going around called a capsule wardrobe.  The idea is to minimize your wardrobe, make sure it only contains clothing that can mix and match into a multitude of different outfits, and the clothing can only be classic non-fad items that will easily transfer from style to style each year.  I've also added the rule that you have to LOVE each item and how it looks on you.  Ladies, there's NO point in buying clothes that you like the style, but it doesn't fit you right, or vise versa.  This will kill your self esteem every time you look in the closet. Just don't even go there!

A capsule wardrobe allows you to not only know what's in your closet (without having to itemize), but also what's worn out and needs to be replaced.  This saves soooo much money by eliminating impulse buying, and allowing you to take full advantage of sales.  You can also feel better about purchasing more expensive, quality clothes, because you know you will wear it and it will last longer than the cheaper brands.  It also saves time because you can come up with an outfit easily.. that's right, no more trying out several different outfits to determine what makes you feel confident.

This is my example of my capsule wardrobe (remember you can change it according to your tastes, but just follow the rules above):

1 pair of slacks (black)
2 pairs of jeans (skinny and regular)
4 dresses (little black dress, 2 pretty day dresses, and a long sleeve knit dress)
4 blouses (black, white, silk, and dressy)

3 sweaters
3 tanks
2 graphic tees
2 cardigans (cashmere and long wrap)
1 camisole (silk)
2 blazers (black and navy)
2 jackets (lightweight and fleece)
1 coat (trench)
1 pair of work pants
2 shorts (dark and light)
1 pair of sweatpants

Neutral leather purse
Casual tote bag
3 belts
2 Scarves

2 pairs of stud earrings (diamonds and pearl)
2 pairs of dangle earrings (gold and silver)
1 pair of hoop earrings
2 necklaces (pearl and silver pendant)
2 rings (gold and silver)
Understated watch
Simple bracelet

Black ballet flats
2 sandals (white and black)
Black pumps
2 pairs of heels (colorful and neutral)
2 pairs of tall boots (black and brown)
Neutral booties
Work boots

There's also this handy little app that you can download called YourCloset.  The point of this app is that you have your closet everywhere you go, which I find extremely useful so I don't buy duplicates and so I know what to look for on the clearance racks! It's very user friendly!  All you do is take pictures of your clothes and organize them into specific categories (tops, bottoms, dresses, outerwear, etc.).  It also has the option to sort by color and to create outfits that you typically wear - that you can further organize into seasons!  The BEST feature is that you can log underneath each picture the last time you wore it.  This is extremely helpful for weeding out those gorgeous items that you never wear for one reason or another.

Friday, September 23, 2016

How To: Reduce Laundry Stress (in two simple steps)

We all know that dreaded word: laundry.  Wait!  Don't run and hide just yet.  I just might have the answer to your problems.   I have a two step formula that's changed my life from piles of laundry everywhere to having everything folded AND put away.  I know at this point you're skeptical, but bear with me and you'll find your house going from this:

to this: (picture coming soon)

1.  Minimize your wardrobes -  I know this is a HARD pill to swallow.  Trust me, this was the worst part of the whole process, but once you get started...  it will become easy, and dare I say, you'll love the results.  We are raised in a culture where more is better, yet so many of us are stressed and unhappy with our current lives.  For a more in depth look at minimizing your wardrobes, see my post: How To: Create a Capsule Wardrobe for Busy Moms.

2.  Do ONE load daily -  This not only gets rid of stress, but allows you to be more productive throughout the day (instead of wasting a whole day to "laundry day").  As a mom of two girls, this simple process has changed our lives.  On day one, start one load in the washer in the morning when you first get up.  Once you hear the little buzzer saying it's done, switch it over immediately to the dryer... and you're DONE for the day.  The next day do the same thing, except schedule a time to get the clothes from the dryer from the previous day, fold them, and put them away.  Pretty simple concept right?  It makes a HUGE difference though.  Also, you might not have a load to do everyday if you minimize your wardrobe properly and you stick with daily process.  Even with a 2.5 year old (who is constantly getting her clothes messy), we generally only have a load of clothes to do every other day or so.  For the days in between, I typically make that a day for sheets, blankets, towels, curtains, etc.  I've found that if I break the daily habit, I'm more than likely to put the laundry off another day..  but if you're the type of person that can break routine and hop back into it, then kudos to you and enjoy a day off from laundry!

If you give this two step formula a try for one week, I bet you'll notice a huge difference your laundry situation!  I know change is hard, but once you make it part of your daily routine, you'll wonder how you survived without it.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Seriously Perfect Chocolate Cupcakes and Icing

My oldest's birthday party is next weekend, so I've been searching high and low for a cupcake recipe from heaven.  Seriously.  It has to be flavorful, moist, and most of all, vegan.  Via Pinterest, I found this lovely lady's blog and a beautiful recipe that I successfully tweaked to make it vegan.

Perfectly Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cacao powder  (I used Himalania Organic Cacao Powder from Sprouts)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs (or egg substitute)
1 cup chocolate cashew milk (I used Silk)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract (I used Simply Organic Pure Vanilla Extract from Sprouts)
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350.  Line muffin tin with paper liners.  In a large mixing bowl, stir together sugar, flour, cacao, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Once thoroughly mixed, add in eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla.  Beat on medium speed for 1-2 minutes.  Stir in boiling water (which causes the batter to be thin, but this is perfect).  Fill liners 2/3 full with batter (putting the batter into a large measuring cup with a pour spout made this so much easier and less messy).  Bake cupcakes for 18-22 minutes.  Cool completely on wire rack before frosting.  This recipe yielded 24 regular sized cupcakes for me.

Bada bing bada boom.  It's so moist, light, and full of flavor.  Exactly what I had been looking for.  Then I went on to search for an icing recipe.  Pinterest saved me again by connecting me to yet another lovely lady's blog with the most perfect icing recipe EVER that I once again tweaked to make vegan.

Best Vegan Buttercream Icing

1/2 cup butter substitute, room temperature (I used Smart Balance)
5 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract (again, I used Simply Organic Pure Vanilla Extract from Sprouts)
1/4 cup chocolate cashew milk (again, I used Silk)

In large mixing bowl, beat butter substitute until creamy and fluffy.  Add sugar gradually, one cup at a time.  Add in vanilla and milk, and mix on high until silky smooth.

By adding chocolate cashew milk instead of just original cashew milk (or other non-dairy milk) it gave it this delicious hint of chocolate so that it paired beautifully with the cupcake recipe, but not so bold that it overpowered the original vanilla buttercream flavors.  These are definitely my new go-to recipes for cakes and icings.  They're so simple (but SO tasty) that they can easily be tweaked to accommodate other flavors.  Recipes.  From.  Heaven.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Yummy Chocolate PB Cups

Sometimes life likes to throw you curve balls.. like a fast track class that you thought was 8 weeks but is actually 4 weeks (not that I would know anything about that), and all of a sudden your life is crazy hectic.  Then, you have this event to go to where you need to bring dessert.. but forgot all about it until last minute (not that I would know anything about that either).  Never fear, another brilliant recipe is here!  These delicious little cups were a big hit, and everyone couldn't believe how simple they were to make... AND with only two ingredients!!  They are also VEGAN due to these specific mini chips being dairy free.

(Pictures of these morsels will be coming soon)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

Enjoy Life Semi-Sweet Chocolate Mini Chips
Creamy Peanut Butter

In a mini cupcake pan, add mini cupcake cups.  Melt mini chips in microwave for about a minute (keep an eye on it to keep it from burning).  Fill 1/3 of each mini cupcake cup (about 1/2-1 tsp) with melted chocolate.  Add in about 1/4-1/2 tsp of peanut butter to the center of each cup, leaving enough room on the sides for the chocolate to cover it.  Fill the rest of the cup with melted chocolate (melt more mini chips if needed).  Put cups in freezer and freeze for a couple of hours. Then, voila! A deliciously easy masterpiece.

Keep in mind that these darlings will begin to get melty once in room temperature for a long amount of time.  Not enough for them to lose their shape, but enough to get on your fingers while eating them (which is easily fixed by licking it off).  You can also make these in regular cupcake pans/cups to make giant chocolate peanut butter cups.

WARNING: This dessert is so good that you can't eat just one! Make sure to make plenty to go around.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Which Woolly Sheep for Us?

This week we narrowed down our choices in sheep. Yes, sheep.  Bet you didn't know how complicated that could be.. because I certainly didn't! There are so many breeds.. some are great only for specific regions, others are more adaptable, some are great mothers while many need assistance lambing, and the types of wool on their back vary widely (which was a main concern since we want to raise them for wool) as well as their build.  With the wool, I want to be able to make soft items (sweaters, blankets, etc) and durable items (mostly rugs) as well.  Sheep's wool ranges from fine, medium, long, carpet, and there are even hair sheep (which are actually becoming really popular in the U.S.).  After tons of research, I decided the fine and long types of wool would work best for us. Then I had to take in consideration that we are in Oklahoma... where it can snow and then suddenly have a heat wave in the same day, so we need breeds with adaptability.

For our long wool breed, I want Romneys. They are VERY adaptable and can withstand extreme climates. They're so adaptable that they developed a resistance to foot rot AND their fleeces aren't damaged by harsh weather. They have long, lustrous fleeces that are easily spun, so they're great for beginners (cough cough..).  It's very high yielding, readily takes dye, and has the finest fiber diameter of the long wool breeds.  The finer the fiber diameter of the wool, the more money it's worth.  It also has low grease content, which means it only shrinks slightly when washed.  These darling sheep also have a quiet temperament and bond and train easily with their shepherds.  Their popularity is growing, so if we decided to breed, their lambs would sell easily.

For our fine wool breed, I want Merinos or at least a descendant from Merinos (like Cormos or Debouillets).  They have the finest, softest wool and are very adaptable.  They're excellent foragers, are great mothers, and have a strong instinct to stay with the herd.  Their wool is excellent at regulating body temperatures, absorbing water but retaining warmth, and avoiding that wetness feeling.

I plan on eventually getting a couple lambs of each breed, but this will be a loooong ways away.  I want to get our garden, foul, and goats established first, which will take years. I would also feel that our sheep would be more properly protected if we got a guard dog for them, preferably a Great Pyrenees.  I would want to get a puppy at the same time that we got the lambs so they could be raised together, producing a stronger bond.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Goodbye Ziploc, Hello Blox!

We have been going through an INSANE amount of Ziploc bags lately... as in 10 sandwich bags a day for packing my daughter and boyfriend's lunch. RIDICULOUS!! Not only is it expensive, but it's detrimental to the planet.  So I searched for a divided container that I could pack their food in, but not worry about the fruits leaking or the flavors mixing.. a soggy sandwich would not go over well with a four year old.  After going through tons of containers, I found the perfect one.  Not only is it small enough that it fits in her lunch bag (and leaves room for her juice and yogurt) but all of the sections are perfectly divided for all of her food.  Introducing: The Rubbermaid Salad Blox!!! I think the term "Blox" is insanely cute too.

Yes, yes.. I know it says it's for salad.. but it's SO perfect for lunch. I can fit her sandwich and snack/treat in the bottom, and then her fruits, vegetables, and dip are divided up beautifully in the top portion.  AND it comes with it's own blue freezer pack that snaps directly onto the bottom.  I still put the freezer pack (the one that's for $1 at Walmart) that I had bought previously in the bottom of her lunch bag, so her lunch stays extra cold.  I no longer worry about her food becoming room temperature throughout the day.  I also don't have to worry about her smashing her food.  We've been using this for about a week now and I simply adore it. It's easy to use (and clean), keeps my daughter happy, saves us money, and keeps us from damaging Earth.  Rubbermaid also has sooo many other Blox to choose from: Sandwich kit, Entree kit, Flat Lunchbox kit, and they even sell some of their containers separately.  We are definitely going to be buying one for my boyfriend's lunch bag.  Goodbye Ziploc...and hellooooo Blox!!!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Home Management Binder: Food Section

Next section: food! We all know food makes the world go round.. or something like that. This section includes:
The section cover

A weekly meal planning sheet
A super grocery list that not only tells you what you need at the grocery store, but also helps you keep track of how often you need to buy a specific item (to help you know how to buy in bulk without it going to waste) and to keep track of what you are paying for each item.  I know in our home we tend to use the same groceries over and over, so this helps with budgeting too!

A recipe table of contents

And lastly, a blank recipe card.. for a bonus I'll even include the Honey Wheat Bread recipe:

To download this binder section, click here!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Homemade Honey Wheat Bread

I don't know about you, but in our house we go through a TON of bread, between making toast for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch every day.. equals at least 16 slices per day. CRAZY! So to cut down on expenses, I decided to start baking bread at home (plus it tastes better too!). I found and tweaked this delicious honey wheat bread recipe, and everyone has fallen head over heels for it.

Honey Wheat Bread

3 cups hot water
1 1/2 Tbsp yeast
1/4 cup all-vegetable shortening
1/4 cup honey
1 Tbsp pink Himalayan salt
5-6 cups whole wheat flour
Butter or butter substitute

In a large bowl, add hot water and yeast.  Dissolve the yeast and wait until it froths (or bubbles) which takes about 5 minutes.  Then add shortening, honey, and salt, mixing in slightly with spatula (the dough will just get stuck in a whisk and a spatula makes it easy to scrape off the sides).  Add flour a cup at a time until you have a soft dough that isn't sticky. Put dough on a lightly floured surface and knead until it's a good, solid dough (add more flour if it still sticks to your hands, but not so much that it's tough.. we still want it to feel like dough). Put dough back into the bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and let it raise until it's doubled in size - about an hour.  If you put it on top of a warm oven (about 250), it raises beautifully.  Then place it back on the floured surface and knead it again. Divide the dough and place it into baking pans, pressing it into shape, and let it rise again for another hour.  Preheat oven to 350.  Bake bread for 30 minutes.  Pull oven rack out and butter the top of the bread, then back another 2 minutes.  Remove and let cool for 10 minutes.  Remove bread from pan, and let cool another 10 minutes before slicing.

Regular shortening and salt will work with this recipe, but the ingredients I have listed make it a healthier, tastier (and vegan) version. And make sure you use HOT water... if you use cold water, it won't rise correctly and it will look like this:

It will still taste good, but it will be more dense and flat.  Don't ask me how I know this.. hah.  Happy baking!!

Friday, August 5, 2016

DIY Facial Mask

There were sooo many DIY facial mask recipes, and none of them were quite right for me.. The majority of them were too runny or just didn't do anything to my skin.  So I tweaked a simple coconut/honey recipe and found this to work amazingly.  All of these ingredients are sooo good for your skin:
Coconut oil helps strengthen underlying tissues and helps remove excessive dead cell on the skin's surface that makes your skin rough and flaky in texture.
Honey is naturally antibacterial, full of antioxidants, opens up pores (making them easier to unclog) and is very moisturizing.
Lemon Juice decreases dark areas, balances oiliness, enhances skin tone. It's also a natural disinfectant and exfoliant, and is just great for acne.
Brown Sugar is great for exfoliating sensitive skin and is full of glycolic acid (which is crucial for maintaining healthy skin).
Ground Coffee treats redness, is a natural anti-flammatory, reduces dark circles under the eyes, and reduces cellulite.
Vanilla Extract is high in anti-oxidants, reduces the occurrence of wrinkles and age spots, is rich in Vitamin B complex, treats acne, and smells amazing.
Peppermint Extract reduces pain, is high in anti-oxidants, and has a cooling effect.
Lavendar helps treat acne, eczema, and tired muscles.  It also detoxifies, tones, and heals skin.
Oatmeal cleanses, locks in moisture and normalizes skin's pH.

DIY Facial Mask

1 Tbsp coconut oil
2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground coffee
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
5 drops peppermint extract
5 drops lavendar essential oil
2 1/2 tsp oatmeal

Mix all these lovely ingredients together and put facial mask mixture in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.  Apply to face and let set for 10 minutes or so.  Wipe off with warm cloth and voila! A smooth, soft, healthy face!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Home Management Binder: Planning Section

Today's adventure was a home management binder..

You would think that would be easy right? Just look up some free printables and bam! You have your whole life planned out for the next year.. Wrong! It seemed like every website I went to, you had to subscribe to get your free printables.. to me something isn't free if you have to do something for it.. I mean, let's be real here.  So I decided to research as much as possible on the many varieties of binders that I came across (my poor browser had SO many tabs open) and create my own little binder AND upload legitimately free printables. No subscription required (although if you wanted to, that would rock).

These printables are very time consuming, but I will post them once I finish each section.  Let's start with the "Planning" section.  This includes:
The section cover

Yearly calendar sheets
(unnumbered so the template can be used year after year)
A weekly calendar

A daily schedule

Goal setting sheets for: weekly, monthly, yearly, in 2 years, in 5 years, and in 10 years

And last but not least, a project planning sheet.

To download this binder section, click here!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Progress at Last

Hurray! This weekend was a success. We not only finished mudding and sanding the bathroom and dining room, BUT we also patched up the walls in the master bedroom. AND we picked out our final selection on paint colors, flooring, and bathroom accessories from Lowe's.

For the dining room, kitchen, and laundry room, we decided to go with Olympic's "Zen" (OL749.1) on the walls. We also instantly fell in love with SoftStep Plus's "Huntington - Coffee" for the floors in these rooms. For us, vinyl flooring is a must right now. The sheets are easily installed (which means easily replaceable when they wear out or we decide we need a new design), easily cleaned, and affordable. Let me tell ya though.. I'm excited for this product. It's textured like a wood floor would be, and it's cushioned (hence the SoftStep). AND the color of the "wood" matches beautifully with the blue hue of the walls.

Valspar's "Inhale" (CI 6) is perfect for our bathroom walls, and Pickwick Landing's Candlerush Slate in Ivory (again with the vinyl) will do nicely for the floors. A lot of the vinyl had yellow undertones, especially in the faux grout, and it clashed horribly with our paint choice.. but this sheet was completely on point with the cool palette. We also made the decision to get Delta's Windemere 4" centerset in brushed nickel for our sink faucet, which will go nicely with Allen & Roth's Merington 3-Light Vanity Bar and our Style Selections Latimer Gray Resin bathroom accessories (wastebasket, soap dish, etc).

Next, we chose Olympic's Prussian Blue (OL708.5) for the living room and master bedroom. These rooms have the original wood floors from when the house was built in 1930, so our desire is to restore these beauties. If, however, we are unsuccessful, we plan on continuing the SoftStep Plus's "Huntington - Coffee" throughout these rooms. For the light fixture in our living room, we are installing Allen & Roth's Earling Semi-Flushmount Ceiling Fixture (and yes, today I discovered I'm in love with Allen & Roth's products).

And finally, for our daughters' bedrooms, we chose Sherman Williams' Flannel Grey (HGSW1464) for the walls and the colors of Valspar's Sweet Pink (1004-2B) and Olympic's Spring Lilac (OL676.3) for accents around the room (picture frames, glass decor, etc). Their rooms will both have Allen & Roth's Eberline Crystal Flushmount Fixture as well as the Table Lamps.

There's still a long ways to go (obviously) before the house is complete, but this weekend has made me hopeful that this house will be move in ready before we know it!!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Choosing Fruits and Veggies

Today I have been compiling a list of what veggies/fruits we eat and researching the best place to put them in the garden.  Here is my list:

  • Celery
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Bell Peppers (Red, Green, and Yellow)
  • Cucumbers
  • Pumpkins
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Chickpeas
  • Green Beans
  • Lentils
  • Peas
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Pinto Beans
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Grapes
  • Cranberries
  • Watermelon
  • Cantaloupes
  • Pineapples
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
I did TONS of research on all of these plants.. And then began picking spots out for them on my blueprint (I started up a diagram of our potential homestead on photoshop last night so I can properly scale everything.. it helps my imagination to not get too far ahead of reality). Apparently, taller plants need to be on the north side of the garden (tomatoes, peas, beans.. anything on vertical supports).  I followed this chart to properly place the majority of my plants in my blueprint.

I also read that if you plant marigolds around your garden, it will help keep bugs at bay, so I added those in as well.  Next, I placed my vines (grapes and cranberries) and decided since pineapples are a weird looking bush, they could be placed in the same area as well!  After reading up on fruit bushes and their spacing, I learned that raspberries need to be planted 4 ft apart, blackberries - 3 ft, strawberries - 1 ft, and blueberries - 4 ft.  So I placed those accordingly on my blueprint...

And now onward to planning the orchard and goat pen!

To see my handy blueprint, click here!

Friday, July 8, 2016

And So It Begins

It's hard to say what sparked the homestead idea within me.  Maybe it was my veganism, or wanting to be self sufficient, or maybe even wanting my kids to experience the beauty of life..  Needless to say: there's no way to pinpoint it, but regardless of the reason, homesteading is my destination.

My grandmother has given us her small, old 1930's home that sits on a couple acres.  The poor house was never maintained so it's currently in renovation.  Everything is being replaced, from the plumbing, to the wiring, and even the drywall and floors.  Progress seems like it has taken it's sweet time (a year and a half actually), but the plan is to be able to move by October - when the lease for our apartment is up.

Today I've been researching and planning for the chickens that we plan on adding to our humble abode.  After going through the best egg layers and factoring in temperament and hardiness, we've decided to go with 6 to 8 Buff Orpingtons.  We will make a chicken coop that's 32 square feet, and have a run around it that's 64 square feet.  I have tons of ideas on my pinterest (BlueEyes13016), but we will see which ones we actually do!  I would love to landscape the run with butterfly bushes, juniper, hawthorn, and maybe rose bushes..along with grazing boxes and dust baths.  On the outside of the run, I would like to plant lavender, oregano, sage, and mint (all very healthy for chickens).  I also would like to get a couple of pekin ducks and a couple of cayuga ducks.  But I'll have to continue to consider whether or not I will house the chickens and ducks together..

My game plan (thus far) for next spring is to get the chickens/ducks established and well maintained.  I also plan on starting an herb garden and maybe a small vegetable garden.  Additionally, I will start the process of making an orchard.

The second year, I will make a larger vegetable garden (maybe build a greenhouse) and get a couple goats.  And continue to make sure everything is working efficiently.

The third year, I plan on properly landscaping the entire property as well as plant berries.  I may also get a cow (that's still up in the air.. it depends on how the goats do), but I definitely want to get some bees.

It's definitely in my interest to not only be able to provide food/natural products for my family, but also to sell homemade goods.  There's a big shop that also sits on the property that I could make into a market and storage, but that's something that still needs to be thought through.

Will this be a lot of work? Yes.  Will it be worth it? Absolutely.  I know these are big plans, but they are definitely doable.  I'm excited to see what our path has in store for us, and I'm also very excited to document our adventures through this blog.