Monday, January 31, 2011

Sometimes it has to be pizza

and sometimes it has to be homemade.

I love my homemade pizza crust. The dough is easy to make. Sometimes I just drizzle the top with olive oil and sprinkle on a little kosher salt and some grated parmesan cheese. Other times I add sauce and shredded cheese and toppings.

Pizza Crust
2 1/2 - 3 cups all-purpose flour
1 envelope (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup warm water (Not hot or you'll kill your yeast, just nice and warm. If you're neurotic about it, you can use a thermometer. It should be 115-120 degrees.)

Mix 1 cup flour with yeast, sugar, salt, and oil. Slowly add warm water and beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. (If you are using a big mixer like a KitchenAid, change from the paddle to the dough hook for the next step.) Add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft but not sticky dough. Knead for 5-8 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. Cover with a clean dish towel or some cling wrap and let it rest for 10 or 20 minutes.

Roll out on a floured surface into a round shape that will fit on your greased pizza pan. If it's a small pan and you like thin crust you can probably get two out of this recipe. You can let it rest and rise for a bit, or bake it right away. I usually make one super ginormous pizza and let the dough rise for a thicker crust.

Prick the dough a lot all over with a fork. Bake at 425 degrees for 7-15 minutes depending on thickness of crust. It should be set and very lightly browned. Take it out and add a thin layer of sauce and toppings on the hot crust, then bake for 7-15 minutes more until cheese is bubbly and toasted and crust is golden-brown and cooked through in the middle.

Topping ideas:
Barbecue sauce (instead of tomato sauce), mixed cheese blend (cheddar and mozzarella is good) shredded rotisserie chicken, thinly sliced red onion (my personal favorite).

Taco sauce, taco meat, cheddar cheese. Add shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes after baking.

No sauce, shredded mozzarella, sliced raw or roasted vegetables, any kind.

Sweet and sour sauce (the kind you would dip your egg rolls in), mozzarella, diced cooked chicken, thinly sliced green onions.

Be creative and use up the leftovers in your fridge to invent your own custom family favorites. It's pizza, for heaven's sake - you can't mess it up!

Well, actually, you can mess it up. I did, once. I got all healthful and crazy for a minute and used whole wheat flour instead of regular white flour. Tomato-y pizza sauce and whole wheat bread=definitely not tasty.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Remember a few days ago...

...when I said this: "Waiting for it while you save up for it is gratifying in many ways"?

Yeah. It's true, if you are the one waiting and saving. It's not as gratifying for other people to wait while you save up for things they want.

My Little Prince told me the other day, when I asked him what kind of car would he like, that he would like a new car.

That kid is so cute. And so funny! A new car, sure. In some parallel universe (where James has different parents), James (or any of our kids) gets a new car, courtesy of his parents.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It's the end of an era

Our good, old, faithful and trusty Windstar finally blew its head gasket on Monday.

It's done. Can we have a moment of silence?

(Actually, as I was cleaning out the desk yesterday I came across repair receipt after repair receipt after repair receipt. We sure did sink a lot of money into that old Ford.)

It was roomy and nice to have while all the kids were little, and the cargo space in the back was very convenient. A few times we pulled all of the seats out of the back and used it to move big stuff. That was nice. I don't know what we'll do for those situations now. I guess I'll have to make friends with somebody who owns a pickup.

I will be picking up James from school every day until we figure out something else. And while I love James and would do anything for him including picking him up after school every day, I have to tell you that it really cramps my style.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

When the going gets tough...

...the tough clean out a drawer.

I'm having a tough couple of days for no particular, serious reason other than just the ordinary aggravating kind of things that happen sometimes to everybody, and being on my own to deal with them while Mr. Dub is away on business.

You might remember that when I'm feeling down in the dumps and sick of the world that cleaning out drawers or closets helps me refocus my attitude and cheer up a bit.

Yesterday I began to suspect that a cleaning jag would be necessary. And when the desk drawer where I keep my bill-paying stuff wouldn't open this morning because of all the junk in it, I knew immediately which drawer was getting tackled.

I'm not completely finished yet - there are still some things to put in the long-term file box - but I've de-stapled and shredded and thrown away and organized until I'm in a much better mood.

There is no "before" pic, but here's the clean and easy-to-get-along-with "after"!

Monday, January 24, 2011

financial wisdom from the internet

"It's not so important how much you make, it's how much you keep."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Finding beauty in simple things

My cousin Jenna has on her blog a link to another blog - home and harmony. Which is where I learned all about another blog that recently highlighted the author's cleaning supplies shelf.

I admire the look of these ladies' homes. They are simple, lovely, and serene. Melanie even found a way to organize her cleaners, rags, and scrubbing brushes in a way that is beautiful.

Here's my problem: to get there from here where I'm at is a huge leap. And to make that leap would require the purchase of a lot of pretty bottles and jars and baskets and such. (Not to mention, much, much prettier soap.) Which I am not necessarily opposed to, I just don't want to do it right now while I'm trying to pay off some debts.

All of that left me feeling kind of defeated and hateful. But I decided to do what I can, with what I have, and see what I could come up with. With a plastic basket that I already own to corral the smaller items that tend to get knocked over a lot, along with a dust rag and a little effort, I tidied up my laundry closet. And even though it's not what you could call classically beautiful, and no interior design magazine will be dropping by to photograph it, my laundry closet is organized, neat, and tidy and everything looks cared for.

And in my opinion, it is the care you give something that can cast the beautiful glow on common, everyday kinds of things. It's like my mother used to tell me - if you can't have what you love, love what you have.

Thanks, Mom!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

a new favorite

Since chocolate started giving me heartburn a few years ago, I've started a love affair with chewy, sweet bits of dried fruit. Raisins, golden raisins, craisins, dried apricots.

Yes, please!

It doesn't get much better on a wintry Saturday morning than a homemade cinnamon roll with golden raisins and chopped walnuts.

Friday, January 21, 2011

One week still to go...

...without him, and I really miss my Mr. Dub.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Getting back to pain...

...but also back to anticipation and gratitude.

I mentioned here a couple of weeks ago that part of my plan for 2011 includes becoming more financially fit. I've studied and stared at and studied some more my plan to spend Mr. Dub's hard-earned salary. You do know what you call a plan to spend money, don't you?

It's called a budget.

One of the TV shows that I like to watch is Til Debt Do Us Part. The financial guru on the show is Gail Vaz Oxlade, who happens to be hilarious. She really tells it like it is, and I appreciate her sense of humor and outrage at the mess people get themselves into.

Recently on her blog she wrote about the Buy Now, Pay Later plans that people sometimes get sucked into, and why BNPL is harmful to your financial health. One thing she said really struck me, and here it is: "The biggest problem with BNPL is the ease with which people can take home stuff they have yet to pay for, making it feel like they got a special deal, and leaving them with the euphoria of purchase without the pain of payment as an off-set. Physiologically we need this balance to help us prioritize. Removing one side of the equation lets us delude ourselves."

Did you get that? She said physiologically. Not psychologically. Our bodies need the physical discomfort of letting go of money we earned in order to prioritize what our minds want to do. I think that's incredibly interesting.

One of the other tricks in her bag is to live on cash. To pay with cash for things like food, gas, entertainment, etc. To physiologically feel that pain as an off-set to the euphoria that comes with buying things, even things like groceries. I've been doing this for a couple weeks, and I see exactly what she means.

And while I am feeling the pain, I am also anticipating things. It's funny, actually, because now that I'm making myself plan for things instead of rushing out to buy them, I am enjoying the process of it all much more. I have "bought" myself time to find what I truly want rather than buying something because it's right in front of me. And I also feel much more grateful when I finally get the thing I've wanted because I've had to wait for it. It doesn't matter what the thing is that you want, whether it's a spool of fine silk thread or a new book or a new car. Waiting for it while you save up for it is gratifying in many ways.

It's been kind of fun and I believe it's developing my character. I'm learning, again, to not be a person who thrives on instant gratification. I am developing a little more self-discipline, and it's turned out to not be an ordeal. And far better to work on it now than to wait until I'm compelled to do it.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ever heard of Joseph Addison?

This is what he wrote:

When in the sultry glebe I faint,
Or on the thirsty mountain pant,
To fertile vales and dewy meads
My weary, wand'ring steps he leads
Where peaceful rivers, soft and slow,
Amid the cooling verdant landscape flow.

(Hymns #109, The Lord My Pasture Will Prepare)

Sultry glebe? Wow. It's hard to believe I haven't noticed that one before. I love it!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

You know that show Hoarders...

I can't remember if it was the TLC version or some other version (and YES I'm fascinated with these shows) but one of the psychologists asked the hoarder why the word "hoarder" upset her so much. The woman said that she thought of herself more as a "collector" than a hoarder.

The psychologist said something to the woman that has stuck with me. She said, "Collectors say to people, 'Come on in and let me show you my cool collection!', while a hoarder will go to great lengths to keep other people out of their homes and unaware of the mess. So, are you a collector or a hoarder?"

It had already been made clear that the woman had a long-time boyfriend/fiance that had never been in her home, and that other friends and family members hadn't been in there for years either.

I think that it's a good tool to use and something I hope to remember - can I say, "Come on in!" when I'm in the midst of defending my eccentricities?

Monday, January 17, 2011

oh, barnacles!

I have this strange and unsightly thing that has recently appeared on my cheekbone right in front of my left ear. I went to the doctor today to get it checked out and he said it's benign, so that's good. It's called seborrheic keratosis. Or, colloquially, barnacles.


Apparently you can get these things as you get into middle age. You can just leave them alone but since it's on my face, I want it off. Dr. Ermac said it's not a big deal and if it wasn't on my face he could have cut it off himself in his office. I have an appointment with a dermatologist in a few weeks to get it removed.

Is there no end to the bizarre and ugly possibilities?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Lessons from B

I've been helping a lady in my ward clean out her house in anticipation of moving into some sort of retirement community. It's a sad job, and it's been made particularly difficult because one of the reasons she has to move is because she can no longer afford to live in her home.

We've sorted through a lifetime of possessions, files, memorabilia, clothing, inherited items, and other stuff and rubble.

Here's what I've learned from this adventure:
  • Don't buy trendy things. Stick to quality wardrobe and household items that will last for years without going out of style.
  • Be thoughtful about the things you purchase. Your children likely will not want your pile of "collectible" thingamajigs no matter how much you paid for them thirty years ago.
  • You will never get back what you paid for anything so make sure you love it on its own merits and not for what you perceive it to be worth.
  • Sentimental value will not increase the garage sale price.
  • Don't postpone the cleaning out of drawers, closets, cabinets, attics, etc. A stressful, sorrowful situation combined with a sense of urgency will make these jobs more difficult, not less.
  • Things are not a satisfying substitute for good relationships.
  • The acquisition, maintenance, and care of things is a both a burden and a blessing. Make sure your things add value to your life, not just more work. If they only add work, out they go and the sooner the better.

And the number one lesson I've learned from this is this - the kind of life you live when you are old and tired and possibly sick will be directly affected by the planning and preparation you do today and every day until then. You will get old. You will need more money than you think at a time in your life when your ability to earn money may be drastically reduced. Instead of buying the latest gadgets and toys and the most fashionable clothing and the most exciting vacations, save and invest your cash. Manage your resources carefully. It's wonderful and fine and desirable to enjoy life along the way, but oh my, be wise.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

home dec

Would you ever hire an interior designer to decorate your home?

A friend of mine gave me the January issue of Better Homes & Gardens for Christmas. It's awesome. It has lots of info about de-cluttering your home. And some really great pictures of fresh, new living room designs.

Here's the thing: my eye is drawn to the simple, clean, un-cluttered, neutrally-colored designs. But my house is full of richly-colored clutter. Whenever I decide that I'm going to make a new throw for my couch, I want it to be red, or blue, or green or brown. Not white and cream or gray. What would happen to all the needlework I've made? What about the things my friends and family have given to me that I have out "decorating" my home? My books, which I could never give up, even for the sake of home decorating, are all different sizes and colors. And where would Buttercup's toy box have to go?

I used to have a friend who moved from a regular, medium-sized, middle-class house into a mansion. Her old house had been decorated by her, and it was cute and funky and fun just like she was. Her new house, which was decorated by an interior designer was very beautiful and warm and expensive-looking. I never had the nerve to ask her which was the real her because it seemed like it might be a rude question.

But I wonder, if I hired an interior designer (which thing I cannot imagine myself doing in a million years) would my house turn into her house? Or would it still reflect me and my taste and my family?

I think my "taste" in home decorating is really more about what is comfortable, (no shin-busting coffee table, please) what is practical (no huge vases of fresh flowers dropping petals and pollen everywhere, please) and what is meaningful to me. I don't want some generic piece of art hanging on my wall just for the sake of having something there.

So it's something I'm trying to work out. We still need a new couch, but I don't see us buying one anytime in the near future. I'm truly okay with that, but duct tape will only take you so far.

Because it's tacky. I know that.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sewing without gadgets

Behold! A stem. I realize this is not the most exciting picture ever, but stayed tuned. That quilt block is about to get a lot more interesting.

Since one of my goals this year is to become more financially fit, I'm deliberately resisting the idea that I must acquire more, more, MORE of everything. There's a lot of back-story to this but I'll spare you all of that today.

In my quilting class on Wednesday one of the things we learned was how to make bias-cut stems. (In Baltimore Album-style quilts, there are lots of flowers, leaves, wreaths, and stems.) Making bias stems can involve the purchase of lots of little sewing gadgets - one for every size piece of stem or wreath - and all that stuff adds up to big $$$ in a hurry. Ka-ching!

My instructor taught us one way of doing it without all the extras. Hurrah! Not only do I not need to buy more stuff, I don't even have to get up out of my chair to do look for it.

I love being thrifty. It's probably lame, old-fashioned, and not chic, but oh well. I'll be taking my lame, ol' thrifty self all the way to the bank.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


... I learned a cool new word - "lagniappe". It's a Cajun word, and I'll leave you to investigate its origins and such if you're interested, but it means to give a little something extra for good measure. For example, the 13th donut that comes along with the first 12 to make a baker's dozen is a lagniappe.

The context I heard it in was to "leave a lagniappe around your stitching line when you are hand-appliqueing."

(I wonder if I've read the word "lagniappe" somewhere before, because as soon as the quilting instructor said it, I saw it spelled out properly in my mind. Either that or I am just super good at spelling.)

I love the concept of lagniappe. I don't think I'll get to use the actual word much, because I'm way too self-conscious to use language that doesn't belong to my own culture, but I can use the idea of it in my life.

Giving a little something extra for good measure. Sweet.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Is it Hugh?

Ever since Jon Bon Jovi got kicked off the secret boyfriend list I've sort of been looking for a replacement. (It should go without saying, of course, the wonderful Mr. Dub always occupies the #1 space in my heart.)

It's too early to tell, since the only thing I can recall seeing Hugh Laurie in is House, but he's a definite possibility. My mission over the next few weeks is to search for and review his work via Netflix. It takes more than just a pretty face (but oh my, what a pretty face!) to make it on to the secret boyfriend list.

A final decision will be made and posted.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Today I am at peace with everybody and everything. It feels good.

(Maybe I should stay away from all people and all things today so as not to shatter the mood?)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Hello, peeps.

My bff D told me to update my blog already. So here I am. Call me dutiful.

I've decided to not make any resolutions this new year. I'm not the kind of person who forgets or abandons her resolutions by February, but I'm not perfect at following through either. Here is what I mean by not being perfect:
  • I am not perfect!
  • That's okay.
  • Publicly announcing that I'm aware I'm not perfect does not relieve me of the responsibility I have to improve my character.
  • I can do better without expecting perfection.
  • But only after taking responsibility for my own faults.
There is a person in my life who is driving me crazy. I mean, really bonkers. My bff D knows who she is and is very patient with my endless moaning and groaning about this person.

I've learned a lot from this crazy-driving person. Mostly how not to be later on down the road of life. (Don't you think a bad example can be as powerful as a good example?) When I've faced some of the devastating challenges that come with getting older, I am positive that I do not want to be like this person. I've been listening to her, and seeing her with the objectivity that only comes from an outside point-of-view.

If you identify yourself as a victim, if you think the world has handed you a rotten deal, if you think all your troubles lie in what has happened to you, you will never be able to get over it. You will have to wait around for someone to come along and save you, and by golly, I've noticed that everyone is pretty busy with their own crap.

Maybe you didn't trip and fall down - maybe you got knocked down. But you're down, aren't you? Whose job is it to get you back on your feet? Isn't it yours? If it's some other person's job to get you back up, then you are stuck down there wallowing around in the mud until they are ready or able or willing to do it.

No thanks. That is not for me. I believe that it is only when you take responsibility for the situation in which you either justly or unjustly find yourself that you can change your situation.

There is plenty of room for caring, understanding people to be loving and supportive and patient while you figure it out. I believe these people are vitally important in overcoming really hard struggles. I hope that I can be one of those people. Really hard things happen to people through no fault of their own, and there is no use denying or sugar-coating that. But you still have a responsibility to be in charge of your own destiny. No one else can do it for you, and honestly, do you want someone else to take charge of your destiny for you?

So here's what I'm working on for 2011 - financial and physical fitness, and strengthening my family relationships. I can do better than I've done in the past, although I probably won't be rich, thin, or popular by January 2012.

Because when I'm old, and that's not so far off, I don't want to have my options limited by the choices I made in the past. I don't want to be sitting around wondering and crying about how no one ever told me while there was still time to change that being fat, somewhat irresponsible with money, and mean would be detrimental to my future well-being.

Some things you ought to be able to figure out for yourself just by looking around.