Friday, February 24, 2012

Homemade Quick Drop Biscuits

Mmm, that title just made your mouth water, didn't it? I'm a biscuit lover, through and through, but I didn't start making my own biscuits (you know, from scratch) until about a month ago. Crazy? Maybe. Why? Because they are SO EASY! I always just popped them out of a can, which is fine, but man, making them from the bare bones -- there's just nothing like it!

For this, I turn to my trusty Joy of Cooking. This book has never steered me wrong! I also love that it includes EVERYTHING -- from boiling an egg to cooking a pigeon (I kid you not). I like that it is basic, but also allows for flexibility if you are an experienced chef. (And yes, I say chef because we're more than just cooks! We're artists! Ok, maybe I'm being silly, but I stand by my terminology.) Anyway, here's what to do to create deliciously easy quick drop biscuits.

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons chilled butter or shortening (or a combination)
  • 1 cup milk
Ever had your bag of flour rip on the bottom? Yeah,
that's what happened to mine. Thank you, plastic bag!
(It's already easy just from the ingredients!)

1) Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

2) Mix together your dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt). JofC says sift. I say, whatever... Although, it does really help to heap your flour into the measuring cup with a spoon. If you jam your measuring cup down in the bag, it can compact the flour too much and make it all clumpy. Spoon it in and no need to sift!


3) Cut in the butter using a pastry blender (or 2 knives) until the butter is the size of small peas.

Here's the part where you might be saying, "What?! Cut in? What is that?" Yeah, that's what I said the first time I read that. Well, the first thing you want to make sure you have is a pastry blender. What is that? This:


Where can I get it? I got mine at Walmart for $3 :)

Why do I need that thing? The idea is to take super cold butter and break it into smaller pieces that will still remain in tact and melt during baking. This creates that flaky deliciousness that you want your biscuit to have. If you chopped the butter up super tiny and mixed it in, it would get too warm and wouldn't melt right during baking. You can use two knives to cut the pieces apart once they're in the flour, but the pastry blender is SO MUCH faster and easier and seriously inexpensive that it's really worth the investment. Some people do this part in the food processor, but I find that it gets the butter too chopped up and you don't get that flaky goodness.

I cube my butter first which does make this
a bit faster/easier.
Sometimes the butter clumps up on the
pastry blender. Don't cry. Just scrape it
off with your spoon!
It should look like this when you're done.
Type A's, you are allowed to have some pieces
of butter that are bigger than small peas. It's OKAY. Just back away from the bowl.
Whew, now that we're past the hard part... (seriously)

4) Make a well in the center of your dry ingredients + butter. Pour in the milk, all at once!

Mmmm, I could swim in that pool of milk!
In all seriousness, I hated milk until I got pregnant.
Ever since then, we've been fast friends.

Here's the part where JofC made me laugh...

5) Stir the dough 1 scant minute.

Ha! What's a scant minute?? I don't know. Basically, just don't over mix it. Once the wet and dry come together, you're good. Here's what the dough should look like.


It will be quite sticky. Too sticky to roll out and cut. These are drop biscuits, remember! If you are a fan of the rolled and perfectly round kind, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F, cut back on the milk by a quarter cup, and you'll be all set to roll them out and make perfect little circles to your heart's content. Me? I like just blobbing them down and gobbling them up! No perfect circles for this girl :)

6) Drop walnut-sized dabs of dough from a spoon onto an ungreased baking sheet and bake 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned.


My biscuits are bigger than walnuts. My husband likes to make little ham and cheese sandwiches out of them, so bigger works better for us. Also, I do find that rubbing my baking sheet down with some butter makes for a happier biscuit bottom, but it's up to you. My oven pops these babies out at exactly 12 minutes on the dot, so make sure to check yours carefully!

Before...
... After!
Now comes the fun part -- eating them! Drizzle with honey (my personal favorite), slather with jam or jelly, drown with gravy -- whatever your fancy. Enjoy :)

Disclosure: Affiliate links

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Swagbucks Birthday Bash!


If you have not yet joined Swagbucks, now is the time to do it! They are offering an extra sign up bonus -- instead of just 30 SBs, you will earn 140 just for joining! Sign up here and enter BIRTHDAYBASH12 to get your bonus bucks. The code expires 2/27/12 so hurry! Just this sign up bonus will put you a quarter of the way toward earning your first $5 Amazon gift card :)

Once you sign up, you can RSVP to the Swagbucks Birthday Bash! Just with your RSVP, you will be entered to win one of 4 $1000 prizes! They will also offer lots of bonus opportunities to win Swagbucks in celebration of their birthday. There has never been a better time to join Swagbucks!

Read more about my tips and experience with Swagbucks here.

Sign up and start earning the fun way!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Earth Mama Angel Baby


After reading about the possible carcinogens inhabiting widely used baby shampoos (here's an article about it from the Washington Post), I decided to go on the hunt for something a little more natural for my almost-five-month-old. I am not normally a freaker-outer when it comes to news about this or that causing cancer. I didn't throw out all my plastic food storage containers (though I no longer heat them up in the microwave), I still use commercial cleaners, and I buy processed, packaged food. I try to be smart about this stuff and use it in moderation (as in, I don't wash my floors in bleach). I also stick to organic when it comes to the "dirty dozen." BUT -- when it comes to a product that I am slathering all over my sensitive-skinned tiny person, "potentially cancer causing" was enough for me to toss out my old products and go in search of something new.

In case you are in a similar boat, I thought I would share with you my own experiences. I found that there are about a billion "organic" or "all natural" baby shampoos out there. It is very, very difficult to be sure that you are getting a product that is safe but that will also WORK! I don't want my child to get cancer from his soap, but I would also like it to clean his stinky self. (Why didn't anyone tell me how bad babies' feet could smell?!) I finally settled on Earth Mama Angel Baby Angel Baby Shampoo & Body Wash. It had great reviews on Amazon and is USDA Certified Organic. I just bought a small bottle of the pumping foam and figured I'd try my luck.

Well, I must say, this soap is awesome!

Here are the ingredients: organic coconut oil, organic olive oil, organic aloe leaf juice, organic vanilla bean extract, organic orange oil, kosher vegetable glycerin, potassium citrate, organic shea butter, and organic calendula extract.

Everything is natural, organic, and totally non-toxic. I knew that when I bought it, but what I didn't know was how well it would work. I have a stinky little boy -- he sweats like a pig (got it from his momma) and drools like a waterfall. I fear the day he begins moving on his own because I know he will only manage to get himself even dirtier! This soap works like a dream. He comes away smelling slightly sweet and citrusy (thanks to the vanilla and orange), but I like that it is not a strong odor. I know that it is gentle because he just carries a bit of the scent with him. I love the way it foams up! It makes it easy to see where I have lathered my little wiggler. We have been using it for about two months now and are barely a quarter of the way through the bottle. (Granted, it's winter, so I only bathe him about twice a week.) The soap is not a "no tears" formula (did you know they use numbing agents to achieve that little perk?? how strange!), but I haven't found it very difficult to keep out of his eyes. I just go slow when I'm washing and rinsing his head. I love this soap, and I will be adding it to my list of "must haves" for all my new mom friends!

Do you use organic or all natural baby soap? Do you make your own? I'd love to hear what you do to get your tiny ones clean!


Disclaimer: I was not paid for my review, nor was I sent a sample by Earth Mama Angel Baby. I just love this soap and wanted to share my opinion with you! Links are affiliate paid.

Monday, February 20, 2012

$700 Winter Blast of Cash Giveaway

$700 Winter Blast of Cash Giveaway Event
Welcome to the $700 Winter Blast of Cash Giveaway hosted by Giveaway Promote.   A fantastic group of bloggers has gotten together to give away $700 in cash to one lucky person. Check out the list of participating blogs at the end of this post. Complete the tasks below to earn entries into this giveaway. One winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries.   Bloggers, join us in an upcoming event! Sign up for Giveaway Promote's event mailing list to receive information via email about their future events.  
This giveaway is open worldwide.
It will end at 11:59pm EST on March 4th, 2012.


NOTE: None of the entries are mandatory. You can enter as few or as many times as you want. You do NOT have to like or follow every page to be entered. The more times you enter, the better your chances of winning!
  a Rafflecopter giveaway   This giveaway is brought to you by:
Giveaway Promote Review and Giveaway My Kids Review It
Baby Feeding Shop Miki's Hope Yummy Boy Mummy
Gone Klippin' Krazy Mamacita La Cuponera Mama Luvs Books
Colleen's Book Nook Made.By.Jess Frugal Gals
Kat's Corner Niche Daily Digital Deals Couponing4You
Mommies Point of View Oh! My Heartsie Money Saving Mindy
Military Wives Saving Coupons Not Cash Our Mom Spot
Shopaholic Mommy Travel Mommy Building Carpenters
I'm Not Superwoman Half-Pint House Handouts A Helicopter Mom
My Cloth Diaper Stash Someday I'll Learn Tidbits From A Mom
Blueberry Squash Style 'n Decor Deals Twingle Mommy
Its the Simple Things My Kids' Cool Mom Acadiana's Thrifty Mom
JustFindIt4U The Frugal Navy Wife Operation $40K
Whoreders The Ladies Lounge Ohayo Okasan
Taunya's Place Too Faith and Family Reviews Freebies With Attitude
Disney Contests and Sweepstakes Emptynester Savings and More Flaunting it with the Image Diva
Oh My Gosh Beck! Our Share of Crazy Carpe Diem
Potato Chip Cats Perfecting Photos Choosing Love
Happy Home and Family Carmen's Coupon Blog TheItMom.com
oc Deal Mama The Anti-June Cleaver I Heart Giveaways
Krazy Couponing with Trish Random Deals My Charmed Mom
Saving While Making Money I Love My Kids Fuggs and Foach
Coupon Hauls Tory's This and That SwagSaver
Cheap Junkie Mothering Matters Sister's Saving Cents
Savior Cents Linda's Angels Free Hot Samples
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2 Kids and a Coupon Sweeping The USA Mary's Cup of Tea
Feed Your Pig Wonderful Things In Life Grow With Stacy
Coupon Savvy Sarah Book Flame Family Makeover Maven
Coupon Coffee Shop Capri's Coupons Green-Baby-Goods
Mom Always Finds Out Pinching Pennies with Heather The Mommyhood Chronicles
Prolific Shopping Bake Sew Write Krazy Coupon Club
Southwest Coupon Clippers Cheapskate Cafe The Coup Diva
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Adventures in Coupons Nicki's Coupon Blog Black, Divorced & Virtuous
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Cheap Is The New Classy Beauty and Fashion Diva The Denver Housewife
Celebrate Woman Today Finger Click Saver Teach Me 2 Save
Whole Lotta Mama

Sunday, February 19, 2012

What Mothers Do

A friend of mine recommended this book recently. She is one of my closest friends, smart and beautiful -- what more could you ask for in a friend?! She became a mom just under two months after I did, so we are puttering around in the same boat so to speak. She mentioned this book and I immediately ordered it from Amazon. If she says it's good, I know it is!

I had no idea how good this book would be. I read the first 50 pages last night and didn't want to put it down! Here are a few amazing quotes from just the beginning. If these don't resonate with you, moms, you just might be Superwoman!
  • "After my daughter's birth, I found time spent with her was full of interest, but I didn't know how to explain it, even to myself. We might have had a good morning together - but whatever had we been doing all that time?" (7)
  • "Looking after a baby may feel like 'something' at the time it is happening, but at other times mothers find it difficult to explain. It's hard to find the words to communicate what 'looking after my baby' really means." (15)
  • "The essentials of mothering are invisible. It's hard to explain them in words. Practical tasks are only part of it. They do not account for that strength of feeling that goes with bringing up one's own child. A mother can discover this suddenly when she has been looking after her baby all through a long day. In the evening, her husband comes home, and at last she can exchange news with another adult. He is the one person, the father of their child, whom she can expect to understand her. Perhaps he asks her something generous like: 'How's your day been?' It has been a difficult day. Now she can share it, hope for some sympathy, and regain her energy. She tries to find something to tell, but this can be frustrating. The words she uses simply don't match the experience." (18)
  • "The most motherly achievements are often written off as failures. 'Worrying' is a good example. Most mothers worry. But what is a mother actually doing when she is worrying? ... Her thinking may be quick and wide-ranging and work on several levels. She may end up with a fairy clear idea of why her baby is crying. Then she checks out this idea with someone and they tell her that she 'must stop worrying so much,' as if all that careful thinking had been stupid... A much more appreciative word is needed to honor intelligent motherly concern." (23)
  • "Education requires students to jump hurdles. There are now tests and examinations right through school and college. They require that a girl prepare thoroughly, demonstrate her knowledge during a short and intense period, and relax afterward... It is only too understandable that a woman might apply the 'hurdle model' to childbirth... She must study hard, aim for a 'successful' birth, and then she can go home and relax. Once she has recovered, life will return to normal, as it always has done... How alarming, then, to return home with the baby and find there isn't even a moment to settle down to a video or to join her friends for a drink." (39)
  • "Once a baby is born, a woman's life is competely changed. 'The strange thing about being pregnant and being a mother is that, although we know the one leads to the other, they are not part of the same psychological thing,' wrote Nigella Lawson. 'When one friend of mine, shortly after the labor, said that she knew she was pregnant, but why didn't anyone tell her she was going to have a baby, I knew exactly what she meant.'" (39)
If you have been, are, or will be a new mom, or even just know a new mom, check out this book! I can't give it a wholesale recommendation because I've only just started it. So far, though, I think this will be one I recommend time and time again!

Disclosure: Affiliate compensation

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Thrift Store Score!


If you love to sew, you are well aware of how expensive fabric is! When I first got into sewing, my thought was -- thrifty and fun! Once I started shopping for fabric, I realized that unless I was very careful, there was nothing thrifty about sewing. I couldn't believe that I could easily pay over $20 just to make one garment! Since then, I keep on the lookout for thrifty fabric finds.

I still scan the sale section at my local fabric store, but today, I got an exciting call from my husband. He is a thrift store enthusiast! He loves going in and seeing what he can find for some ridiculously good price. I love a good deal, but my super organized brain cannot handle the insanity that is a thrift store. I know, sometimes they are very well organized -- even by color! -- but I am just wired for the "new store" kind of organization, and for some reason, I just need there to be six of  particular item hanging on a rack in size order to get myself excited about looking at it. I realize this is a major character flaw, but there you have it.

Anyway, he was shopping at a thrift store and discovered THREE BINS full of fabric! It was all priced at... are you ready?? ... a dollar a yard! He came home, picked me up, and we went right back. I spent about $50 (leftover from Christmas), but I have more fabric than you can shake a stick at! (I don't know what that means. I have a lot of fabric. haha) If you are a thrift store lover, keep your eyes peeled. You never know what you might find! If you have a hard time shopping at thrift stores like me, send out your significant other or best friend, and you never know what they might find for you :)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

All You Magazine


Amazon has All You Magazine on sale right now for $1 an issue! This is an amazing deal for a magazine that routinely offers WAY more than that in coupons in every issue. Plus, it's just a great magazine :) get this deal before it's gone!

Disclosure: Compensated Affiliate

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

2/15/12 Swagbucks Update

Today, I have officially been a member of Swagbucks for two months. I can't believe how much I have earned in such a short amount of time! Here is a screenshot of all the gift cards I have redeemed since becoming a Swagbucks member:



Allow me to do the math for you: in two months, I have earned $100 in Amazon gift cards and $5 in Barnes and Noble gift cards! Let me explain why I choose the gift cards I do. The $5 Amazon gift card offers the biggest "bang for your buck" (in this case, Swagbucks). At 450 SBs, you are cashing out at 90 SBs per dollar. Since Swagbucks has a limit on the number of any one individual prize you can redeem per month, you can only take advantage of the best deal $5 Amazon gift card five times per month. Since it is the best deal, however, it is the first thing I redeem every month! Since my goal has been to earn us a "free" Christmas (free other than the time I spend on Swagbucks), Amazon is the best option for us. The Paypal gift cards would also be an option, but they cost more SBs for the dollar and pretty much everything we could ever hope to buy is on Amazon anyway.

Here is a current screenshot of my Swagbucks Ledger:

Note: This doesn't include any of my Swagging from today (except for
the automatic 1 SB I get for having the toolbar installed).
You can see, I currently have 3,598 unredeemed Swagbucks. I am saving up for the biggest Amazon giftcard I can get by the end of the month (probably the $50 one again). My lifetime Swagbucks earning is sitting at 14,728! I have earned 14,728 in 62 days as a member which roughly translates to 237 SBs a day. Using the $5 Amazon gift card as my rate of exchange (90 SBs = $1), I have earned roughly $164 or about $2.63 a day. Obviously, this is not a get-rich-quick scheme, but I will almost certainly reach my free Christmas goal!

What I love most about Swagbucks is that I can earn this extra money with very little effort. My total includes one credit card application and acceptance for a Discover Card. This netted me 3,600 SBs, but it was free and we can use it to earn rewards by buying thing we would buy anyway. I have also completed two paid offers -- one for a computer game and one for an online privacy service. The only reason I completed those offers was because the Swagbucks payout was more than I spent to purchase them, meaning I was earning more than 90 SBs for every dollar I spent. I've only done it twice because that scenario is rare, but it is worth looking out for!

How do I earn the rest of my points? I do my daily thing (see my post here). The surveys have netted me the most SBs for the least amount of time and effort, but there is an ebb and flow to the survey world -- sometimes I get offers, sometimes I don't. I don't waste my time with Swagbucks TV. Some people click their fingers off to "max out" every day (do the total number of rounds they allow), but I find this to be a major waste of my time. The payoff just doesn't outweigh the effort involved. I keep my eyes peeled for codes, search using their toolbar, and visit the Facebook group often. People regularly post about offers that worked (or didn't work) for them, so I have found out about some gems there. Mostly, it is a routine thing, but it really pays off! For a stay at home mom with a few minutes to spare here and there, I will be so thankful come November and December when we don't have to scramble for extra money from our budget. My Amazon gift card balance will be fat!

Keep a lookout for next month's Swagbucks update! In the meantime, become a member yourself using any of the links in this post :) there is still time to earn your family a free Christmas!

Disclosure: All the links to Swagbucks will sign you up through my account.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Mom Blog Monday Blog Hop

My blog might be a new one, but I can still have fun! One of my plans for this blog is to review some baby products I encounter along my journey with Baby J. Today, I'm participating in the Mom Blog Monday Blog Hop with the fabulous blogs you'll see listed below! Join in if you're also a mommy blogger and follow along with these other fine ladies :)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Sewing Project: Zippered Wristlet

Pin It

After another session of "clean the house quick before the guests come!" I finally got back into my sewing room to work on another project. I used a gift card from Christmas to get supplies for several projects, but I still hadn't had the chance to work on any of them! I had a spare hour the other day while the baby was napping and I went for it. This project came together very fast and uses less than half a yard of fabric! Easy and affordable.

1. Determine how big you would like to make your bag. I based mine off the size zipper I had, but you could easily adapt that to whatever you think you'd use the bag for. If you are making it to fit specific items, measure the contents and add an inch on each side to allow for seams.

2. Cut your pieces. You will need two exterior pieces and two lining pieces. You have the option of adding a strap and an embellishment. Here are the dimensions I used:

  • Exterior: 5" x 10"
  • Lining: 5" x 10"
  • Strap: 2" x 14"
  • Embellishment: 3" x 10"

3. Optional: Add embellishment. Press under the long sides of the embellishment piece 1/4" or 1/2" and edgestitch the strip to the right side of one of the exterior pieces, about 1" from what will be the bottom edge.


4. Lay one piece of exterior fabric right side up and place the zipper, face down, on top of it, lining up the edges. Next, lay a pieces of lining fabric on top of the zipper, wrong side up. Pin and stitch the pieces together along the zipper edge. Turn the two fabric pieces down and away from the zipper so the wrong sides are together. Press both edges away from the zipper.

My exterior and lining fabric were the same so it made these steps a little confusing. In the picture above, you can see the exterior piece with my embellishment placed face up, the zipper on top, and the lining on top of that, pulled back to expose the zipper.

Sewn, pressed down away from zipper
5. Lay the second exterior piece right side up and place the stitched piece (pictured above) on top with the zipper and exterior panel facing down. This means the exterior pieces will be right sides together and the first lining piece (the one already sewed to the zipper) will be on top. Line up the edge of the zipper tape at the top. Place the second pieces of lining on top wrong side up with the edge lined up to the zipper edge. Pin and stitch the pieces together. Open the zipper a bit to help with turning it inside out later.

From bottom to top: second exterior piece,
stitched piece with zipper lined up, second lining piece
6. Optional: Create a strap. Press under your 2" x 14" piece 1/2" on each of the long sides and then fold the whole piece in half and press again. Edgestitch along the length of both sides to create a strong strap.


7. You now have four pieces stitched to your zipper, the two exterior pieces and the two lining pieces. Open out the pieces with the zipper in the center. The exterior pieces should be right sides together on one side of the zipper and the lining pieces should be right sides together on the other side. Make sure the zipper tape is inside the seam on your lining side so that it will open up right once you turn everything the right way. If you opt to add a strap, place the strap in between the two exterior pieces, lining up the end with the side of the bag where the zipper pull will be when the pouch is closed. Pin the strap in place. Pin and stitch along three sides, leaving the bottom of the lining open.

Lining sides on the left, zipper in the middle,
exterior sides on the right with strap
View from above with second exterior piece pulled back
8. Reach inside and unzip the zipper all the way. It will be upside down but you can push the zipper slider along. Turn the lining right side out by folding it back over the exterior pieces. Turn under the bottom edge of the lining by 1/4". Stitch along the folded edges, making sure not to stitch through the exterior pieces. I just pulled the exterior pieces out to keep the out of my way. Turn the pouch right side out through the zipper opening and tuck the lining inside.


Once you tuck the lining in, you are done!


I love having this little bag to just throw in my cash/debit card, cell phone, and chapstick for a quick run to the store.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Winter Blast of Cash Giveaway sign-ups are open at Giveaway Promote. I’ve signed up and will be participating! JOIN ME! The event will be held from February 20th-March 4th. There is an increasing cash prize, currently at $525. When you sign up, tell them that I sent you!