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Gingerbread House 101, For Those Who Have Experienced Gingerbread House Collapse

17 Dec

Candy decorations courtesy of my eleven year old.

There is one absolutely crucial fact you need to know to prevent structural collapse in your gingerbread home.

It is all about the icing.

If you want your walls and roof to stay where you want them, you MUST get the consistency of the icing right.

Sometimes the directions on the kit will tell you the icing should have the consistency of toothpaste.

Please note: Either they are deliberately lying to you, or else they are brushing with some seriously thick toothpaste! Don’t listen to them.

First of all, don’t even think of it as icing. Think of it as mortar. This will give you a more accurate idea of how thick it should be.

Be very stingy with your water. Make the icing so thick it will bend a spoon. Make it so thick it is like dough, and almost rolls into a ball. Use plenty of it. If you get it thick enough, there is virtually no “drying time”. This best if you have children. Kids like gingerbread houses but they do not like waiting. Waiting is boring. Ask any kid.

Remember that the roof sections of the house will need to fight gravity, unlike the walls. You may need to hold the roof for a few moments, until it sets, to prevent sliding.

When your house is firmly together, you can add very miniscule amounts of water to the remaining icing until it is thickly spreadable, but not at all drippy. Decorate the sides of the house before icing the roof, because it adds weight. The softened icing will allow you to do a little piping (with the bag and nozzle) and ice the roof.

A few other tips:

If your roof has a gap at the top, use more thick frosting and then cover with large gumdrops. No problem.

If you are piping (squeezing with the bag and nozzle) and your icing gets too soft from the warmth of your hands, pop the piping bag into the freezer for a few moments and it will harden up. Just don’t forget it is in there.

To make your house stick to the base, add icing to the undersides of the walls or just add some icing along the bottom edge after it is assembled to prevent slipping. If it looks messy, just slap some candy over it.

Remember, this is supposed to be fun. If it were a job, someone would be paying you. Don’t get upset. It is only gingerbread, not your actual home. If all else fails, just break it apart, frost it, and call it cookies!

Your Clutter Just Wants You to Be Happy

7 Dec

“Never miss an opportunity to make others happy, even if you have to leave them alone in order to do it.”—Unknown

Could some of your clothes make you happy by leaving your closet? Would the disappearance of that pile of papers put a spring in your step?

If the glass hummingbird figurine your grandmother gave you when you were in grade school suddenly took flight through an open window, would you breathe a sigh of relief?

Imagine that your clutter wants what is best for you.

If only the expired coupons had hands, they would toss themselves right into the waste basket. If the shoes that hurt your feet could walk on their own, they would have shuffled off to the thrift store ages ago.

Those old VHS tapes regret taking up your shelf space. They don’t want to stand in your way. They want you to be fulfilled, to live the life you have always dreamed of.

Make it an amicable parting of ways.

Letting Go

30 Nov

Let go of your past (what was and what wasn’t)

Let go of those years of clutter

Let your fears fly away

Live your life as if it were new

Be free

This Mess Is So Big

1 Nov

“And this mess is so big
And so deep and so tall,
We cannot pick it up.
There is no way at all!”

― Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat

This is untrue, of course.

Charming, but untrue.

This is what children say when they don’t want to clean their rooms, only they don’t rhyme as well.

If you are an adult, and you catch yourself making this kind of excuse to avoid cleaning or organizing, you must remind yourself that you CAN do it. It might take a while, and it might be stressful, but it can certainly be done.

Have some faith in yourself, focus on the goal, and take breaks.

You can do it!

Homemade Sugar Scrub (soft feet for less money)

5 Oct

Some time ago, I read a recipe for homemade sugar scrub (something I normally purchase for use on my feet). I thought it was a terrific money-saving idea, but I promptly forgot where I had seen it.

For those who are unfamiliar with sugar scrubs or salt scrubs, the grains exfoliate the skin and the oil softens it. Normally, these scrubs have a scent, such as lavender or grapefruit.

Having recently exhausted my current supply of purchased sugar scrub, I resolved to try making my own. I filled the container with a mix of olive oil, granulated sugar and vanilla extract. I would have preferred a citrus extract, but the whole point of this exercise was to avoid a trip to the store, so vanilla was fine. I didn’t measure at all, but simply matched the general consistency to the scrub I had used previously.

The resulting batch was a success. As a bonus, in addition to being soft, my feet now smell like cookies!

CAUTION: If you use any oil based product in the shower, be sure you have a non-slip mat to avoid breaking your neck!

Even Nelson Mandela Needs to Clean Out His Closet Once in a While

14 Sep

There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.  ~Nelson Mandela

We are changing constantly – sometimes on the inside, sometimes on the outside. Your clothing should fit both your current lifestyle and your current body.

If you find yourself altered but your closet remains unchanged, do something about it!

5 Signs That You Need to Organize Your Home

31 Aug

Sign #1:  You found your hairbrush in the microwave.

Sign #2:  The spiders have constructed a town hall and drafted a constitutional charter.

Sign #3:  The coat stand tipped over and crushed your favorite end table.

Sign #4:  To get to the spare room, you need to climb out the window, dangle from the eaves and crawl through a ventilation shaft. (Be sure to bring a flashlight and a grappling hook.)

Sign #5:  Poor Aunt Delores hasn’t been seen since she opened up the pantry door to find the dog food. What day was that? Where is the dog? Well, maybe they went for a really long walk…

Back to Pencils, Books, and Dirty Looks

17 Aug

If you are a parent, or an experienced student, you know that paperwork is a key part of the back to school process.

Fortunately, most schools have the important information online, so if you misplace those important papers (or never receive them in the first place), you can still have access to much of the information you need. Later, you can even check your students’ grades online.

We never received the promised back-to-school information packet in the mail, but thanks to the internet, it all worked out.

I spent an entire morning at a middle school orientation, and it was no more pleasant for me than it was for my children. This is saying a lot, because I made them wear their uniforms for orientation day, only to find that virtually all of the other students wore their street clothes. There is nothing like standing out on your first day at a new school district where you don’t know anyone. Bless their hearts for not complaining about my error.

I made my way through crowds. Why am I waiting in line while others inexplicably step ahead?

I became flustered. What do you mean you don’t have my son’s schedule in the stack?

I ignored the standard fundraising promotions. No, I don’t want to join the PTA, can I go home now?

Frankly, I think being a middle school parent is nearly as bad as being a middle school student!

“Montreal” Spicy Potatoes and Onions

3 Aug

I like short recipes with very few ingredients. I own a cookbook called “The Best Ever Three & Four Ingredient Cookbook” but I rarely use it, because I often make up my own recipes.

One of my simplest personal recipes is a potato and onion dish. It has four ingredients.

Before it cooks, it looks like this:

“Montreal” Spicy Potatoes and Onions

potatoes (unpeeled)

onions (any color)

olive oil

Spicy Montreal Steak seasoning (by McCormick ‘Grill Mates’)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Cut the potatoes and onions in slices or chunks. (Thickness of the potatoes will determine the cooking time. Leave the onions thicker than the potatoes because they cook faster and you don’t want them to burn.) I like a mix of approximately 3/4 potatoes and 1/4 onion. Use a baking dish large enough to allow for stirring without overflow.

Mix the potatoes and onions in the baking dish with enough olive oil to coat them. Sprinkle generously with the Spicy Montreal Steak seasoning and mix well.

Bake, stirring every 10 or 15 minutes. The time depends on the thickness of the potato pieces and the size of the baking dish. I have found that a convection oven works well and takes about 40 minutes, but the potatoes are less browned than they would be in a traditional oven.

Before & After How to Recover a Chair in 5 minutes | The Art of Doing Stuff

30 Jul

Before & After How to Recover a Chair in 5 minutes | The Art of Doing Stuff.

I had to share this simple and gorgeous idea from Karen of The Art of Doing Stuff.

If you are one of those individuals who “shop” at the side of the road or haunt local thrift stores, this how-to plan is perfect for you!