Sewing up a storm

Remember I said that my friend was going to come over and sew with me? We had so much fun! I learned a lot and we managed to get two dresses done in one evening. Her husband was more than ready to go home long before we were finished with the second dress, but he was a good sport and let us finish:)

Over the past two weeks I’ve made those two dresses for my little girl, a nightgown for her, a cute shirt, and a skirt. For my oldest girl I have made two skirts. For my boys I took three of their most beloved long sleeve shirts (which are much too hot to be wearing right now) and converted them into short sleeves so they will still get some use out of them before they are outgrown. I also made an iPod holder for my husband that matches his work uniform, draperies for some storage shelving, and I’m in the middle of a denim patchwork dog bed and a set of curtains for my oldest daughters room. We recently moved her to her own room downstairs. She is so excited to not have to share a room and we are allowing her to decorate (almost) however she sees fit. The curtains are made from some really high quality white flat sheets that have been sitting in the back of our linen closet for years. When I am finished hemming them up we are going to go to the store and let my girl pick out a stencil and some fabric paint, and let her have a go at her curtains. It should make for a fun and truly unique look for her room! She is so artsy, she loves the idea of creating personalized curtains and I hope they come out as good as we envision them!

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Shark Navigator Lift-Away vs. Dyson

Recently my Dyson died, just kicked the bucket. I can’t blame Dyson, it has been a wonderful machine. I’ve had it for about five years, and it was a refurbished model when I purchased it. Although we had the money to purchase a new Dyson I also needed a new dishwasher, so I chose to get a dishwasher and a Shark instead of washing my dishes by hand and having another Dyson.

I did a ton of research on a ton of makes and models before making my final decision. I probably read through over a thousand reviews before I was satisfied that I was making the right decision. I picked out a Shark Navigator Lift-Away, found that the cheapest price in town was at Beat Buy, and went to pick one up. My initial impression was less than satisfying. As a matter of fact, before I even purchased it I was wondering what I was getting myself into. I paid for it, carefully tucked away the receipt so I could turn it back in, and went home. It appeared to be a cheap piece of plastic. The dust bin is tiny compared to my old trusty Dyson, and after assembling it and seeing how the different pieces came apart I was worried that there would be no power to it whatsoever. After so many claims that it was just as good as a Dyson I went ahead and tried it out though, just to see. After all, I had two weeks to return it and get my money back.

I turned it on and it was LOUD, at least compared to what I am used to. But, within just a few minutes, the dust bin was full and needed to be emptied. Of course I wish that, the dust bin was larger, but I was quite impressed with how much dust and dirt this baby was picking up! It had been two days since I vacuumed, there was no way that much dust had collected in that short amount of time. There were a few large pieces on the carpet, but the rest was super fine, dirt and dust that my Dyson had left behind. Considering the age of my Dyson, and the abuse that poor thing had gone through over the years, I can’t necessarily say that this vacuum is better than a Dyson, but I can definitely say it is better than my Dyson!

The maneuverability of the Shark is amazing. I can all but turn the vacuum sideways if I want to. It runs against edge walls beautifully and does an amazing job of picking up all those little things that seem to collect near the baseboards. The included pet hair tool works wonders on my stairs, which has always been a pain to keep clean. I also love the ability to lift away a portion of the vacuum and travel around the room dusting and getting cobwebs without dragging the entire vacuum behind me. After awhile the lift away canister can become a bit heavy, and the hose requires a good bit of muscle to stretch out, but I’m sure the hose will give over time, and my biceps could use a work out anyway.

So, here’s my thoughts in a nutshell:

Cleaning ability – while the Shark is better than my really old Dyson,I’m assuming it would be right on par with a brand new one.

Ease of use: the Dyson is all but self propelled and the Shark requires more work. For a young frugal gal the Shark is perfect, if my Grandmother asked though I would highly suggest she chose a Dyson.

Maneuverability: this one is hard for me to judge. I have never tried one of the Dyson balls, but comparing it to a regular head Dyson I highly prefer the maneuverability of the Shark.

Aesthetics: my bright yellow Dyson had this almost futuristic retro rocket like look to it ( does that even make sense, lol), I loved the way it looked and it was just as much a part of my living room as my couches were. The Shark comes in one color scheme, lavender and silver, which is not my style. It also just looks cheap, when anyone comes over I make sure that it is hidden out of sight.

Overall: while the Shark has a few drawbacks, I just don’t believe that the Dyson is worth $400 more, it’s not THAT much better! If you are older or have any kind of health problems that require ease of use to be your number 1 priority choose the Dyson, otherwise, save some cash and get the Shark Navigator!

Silly beans!

I have been cooking dried beans for YEARS now. I’ve made them on the stovetop, in a pressure cooker, and in the slow cooker. I’ve soaked and not soaked, simmered for hours, and boiled as quickly as I could. They always turn out just fine for our tastes. I had an issue once with a package of split peas, they refused to soften, but I don’t really like them anyway so I just used it as an excuse to toss them. That way I could tell my husband that I had tried to make them for him but it just wasn’t working:)

Two days ago I started a pound of beans in my slow cooker and went on about my business. I did some cleaning, sewing, and then sat down to watch some tv with my husband. Once I sat down I realized how incredibly tired I was and took a little nap snuggled up to my sweetie on the couch. He woke me up at five and I stumbled into the kitchen to throw the beans in a pot with some rice to finish them off, and they had doubled in size but were still hard as a rock. I quickly decided to throw together a quick pizza crust and use up some cheese and pepperoni that I had in the fridge.

Yesterday I took said beans out of the fridge and put them back in the slow cooker. Six hours later (on high) they still were too hard. They had softened some but not very much. I poured them into a pot and boiled them for three hours on top of the stove. They began to split, and the skins peeled off, but the beans were still hard! I have no idea what is going on! It makes no sense whatsoever. Hubby told me that he wasn’t sure he wanted too eat beans that wouldn’t soften after thirteen hours of cooking so I dumped them and he picked up Chinese on his way home from work. I know beans are cheap, so it’s not like I threw tons of money away, but I am perplexed! Sure wish I knew what in the world caused this bean problem…

Updates

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted! We have been enjoying a small vacation. My father came up for a few days. He lives ten hours away so unfortunately we don’t get to see each other very often, our time spent together was so much fun! We don’t eat out much (some call us cheap, I prefer frugal!) and my Dad doesn’t eat out much when he is at home because he lives by himself. No one wants to sit at a table by themselves. We enjoyed quite a few restaurant meals while he was here, his treat. We were also able to make it up to our town square for a handmade market the town hosts once a month. My father is a beekeeper so he loves to stop by other bee keepers booths and chit chat, and try the local honey. Fortunately, a local beekeeper was at the event so my dad got to try out some tupelo honey and talk bees. Another day we ate at a local restaurant on the square and went for a little walk before heading back to our van. On this walk I discovered a local chocolatier. How in the world could there be handmade chocolates in town and I not know about it?!? I dipped in, tried a sample of there chocolate and left with a bakers dozen of truffles. Yum!

After my Dad left we enjoyed a day just sitting around the house. We managed to get quite a few long overdo projects taken care of without feeling rushed and then just relaxed and watched movies all night. The next day I went to a friends house to help her get her husbands truck ready for emissions. She graduated from aviation maintenance school a few years ago, and I was a helicopter mechanic a few years back when I was in the Marine Corps, so technically we are bothe mechanics:). Her husband is out of town for the week so she thought it would be a nice treat to get his truck fixed and his emissions done for him before he came back. We were working on a part that neither one of us had ever worked on before, but we were assured that it was a 30 minute job at the most.

Apparently it is a 30 minute job on a long bed truck. Unfortunately, they own a short bed truck, which makes it an all day and into the night job! We had plans to fix the truck, catch up on some laundry, move some furniture around, and then sit down for a relaxing afternoon of sewing. Lol, we moved a bit of furniture then got started on the truck. We actually had to remove the bd of the truck in order to reach the part! We called in reinforcements (truck beds are heavy), but even between the three of us it was just too much. We were told it was a 3-4 person job. Apparently it’s a 3-4 man job, because the three of us women just couldn’t get it. We were stubborn and tried to use our girl power to get it done. After a few hours we realized that we were in over our heads and made a phone call to one of her husbands friends. He came right on over, and after a few jabs about women mechanics, he gladly helped out. Just a few short hours after he showed up the job was done and the truck put back together, whew! We didn’t accomplish nearly as much as we had hoped, but we are still proud of a job well done. The best part about the whole ordeal was that she only had to spend around $130 for the part, vs. $1250 to get it fixed at the dealership. I’d say that’s a pretty good birthday present to her husband!

Because the truck took so long to fix I didn’t get home until almost midnight, and had to get up early in the morning to go to the dentist and get a root canal. I’ve never had a root canal before, and I’ve heard horror stories, but it wasn’t bad at all. I’ve been a bit sore for a few days, but I think I’m all but fully recovered now. My friend and her family are coming over this evening for dinner, and she is going to bring her sewing machine and the pattern and fabric that we were going to use earlier in the week. After dinner we are going to retreat to my room and work on that outfit we didn’t get a chance to get to the other day! I am a self-taught sewer, she actually learned from her mother who is an amazing seamstress, so I enjoy all the hints, tips, and tricks, that I get when working wi her. Here’s to a fun evening!

Oatmeal ginger snaps

Recently I bought a ton of oatmeal on sale. Nine pounds of it to be exact! As much as I like a good breakfast oatmeal, I had to find something else to make with it, enter oatmeal ginger snaps.

I love AllRecipes and this recipe is just one more n a long list of winners from this site. I changed the spices a bit simply because I ran out of nutmeg, and I am apparently quite horrible at following directions because I didn’t roll the cookies in sugar before cooking. Despite all that they turned out wonderfully, they may even be my new favorite cookie! Make sure and make your cookies small. They are chewy and crisp at the same time with an absolutely delicious flavor. Next time I make these I may try adding in a bit of extra flour to make them a bit more cake like, and I may add some more oatmeal just because I love the flavor and texture they impart. If you are looking for a tasty cookie a bit outside our standard chocolate chip or peanut butter cookie fare, be sure and try these out!

Black eyed peas and cornbread

Black eyed peas and cornbread is a staple at this house. The first time I made it I wasn’t too sure if I liked it or not, but it is an acquired taste that I now love. My two year old loves this dish and smiles from ear to ear while jumping up and down if she finds out that it is on the menu for dinner!

This is a super simple dish to cook with few ingredients, so here goes.

1 lb. dried black eyed peas
Water
Seasoning meat (ham bone, smoked pork, etc.)
Ingredients for cornbread. (I use White Lily Buttermilk Cornbread mix and add some milk, eggs, and vegetable oil)
Seasonings

Cook your black eyed peas and seasoning meat together with the seasoning meat. This is a great dish to throw in the crockpot and forget about! When the peas are done season to taste, I usually use garlic powder, onion powder, and seasoned salt. Most dishes I will add a splash of rice wine vinegar but it doesn’t seem to add anything to this dish so I leave it out. Prepare your favorite cornbread recipe. I cheat on this and just use a bulk mix. When it is time to eat scoop some peas into a bowl, making sure you get some of the cooking liquid in the bowl as well. Now take a hunk of cornbread and crumble it on top of the peas and mix together. I like for it to be slightly juicy once the cornbread has soaked up as much as it can. That’s it! Black eyed peas have a very earthy flavor and will fill you up and keep you warm on a cold winters night, but we cook it all tear round as a cheap, healthy, and frugal meal.

Red beans and rice

Many homemakers today feel the need to find frugal and healthy food for their family. Meat is expensive, so how do we ensure that we have an adequate intake of protein without breaking the bank? Beans are a wonderful source of protein, but it is incomplete. But, if you add a grain the two magically combine to create a complete protein that is low in fat and high in nutrition!

Red beans and rice is a humble food. Not every homemaker out there will be able to convince their families that this meal is the most amazing food ever. Fortunately for me, my husband was raised in the South and this was a staple in his home as he was growing up. I have always loved beans so when my husband fondly recalled this dish I decided to give it a try and it has become one of our family favorites.

Once again, this is more of an ingredients list than a recipe, so feel free to substitute and play around with the seasonings to make this dish work for your family.

1 lb. dried red beans (also known as kidney beans)
Water
Ham bone, smoked pork jowl, etc. (any hunk of seasoning meat or soup bone)
Rice
Seasonings

Prepare dried beans by your favorite method, be sure and throw in your bone or seasoning meat with the dried beans. Cooking the beans with the mat or bone greatly enhances the flavor. Supposedly soaking the beans overnight, draining, and then cooking reduces the chance of any uncomfortable and smelly side effects of eating beans, but no one in this family seems to have that problem to begin with so I very rarely bother with that step.. Soaking will take a bit of time off of your total cooking time but if I’m going to simmer beans all day anyway an extra hour has never bothered me. Just make sure that you never let the water get too low, stir on occasion, and keep the heat to a slow simmer, and you won’t have any problems. I’ve also cooked beans in the crockpot many times. Just add beans and then fill the crockpot with water, turn on high and check every few hours. I like my beans pretty squishy so I cook for them for about four hours. Keep in mind though that every crockpot is different, and each type of bean will have a different cooking time, so keep and eye on it!

When your beans are cooked add rice. I make a huge batch at a time so I usually add about five large handfuls of rice. Add your basic seasonings. I use garlic powder, onion powder, and seasoned salt. Don’t ever salt your beans until they are fully cooked. For one reason or another your beans will never get soft if you add salt before they are fully cooked. Once the rice is done I do a final seasoning, generally adding a splash of rice wine vinegar. I don’t add enough to make the dish taste vinegary, just enough to heighten the palate. For a special treat I will add some small pieces of smoked sausage, yum!

That’s it, pretty easy! This dish does take some time and planning, but there is very little labor involved and makes a great meal on days when you will be home all day and busy with other tasks. Enjoy!