Saturday, April 30, 2016

Ziploc Ice Cream

It's the last day of the A2Z.

What better way to end than a recipe for making ice cream in a Ziploc* bag!
*Any storage bag will do, but for the purpose of the letter Z, I'm using Ziploc

This is fun for young school kids. We once did this at a third grade class picnic and it worked out pretty well. A few kids got salt in their ice cream, but we had enough ingredients on hand for do-overs.

1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cups crushed ice
4 tablespoons salt
2 quart size Ziploc bags
1 gallon size Ziploc freezer bag
a pair of gloves (the bags get very cold!)

Is there anything better than ice cream?

Mix the milk, vanilla, and sugar in a quart sized bag. Seal the bag tightly, squeezing out as much air as possible from the bag. If your bags are thin, you might want to double bag the ice cream mix to keep it from puncturing and getting salt in the mix and ruining it. 
Drop the ice cream mix in a gallon bag with the ice, then sprinkle the salt around the ice. Zip that bag and begin shaking, or turning the bag gently, making sure the ice surrounds the ice cream mix. This is where the gloves come in handy. This mixing makes hands cold! 
Shake and turn for about 8 minutes. 
Open bags and remove ice cream. Dry off the salty water from the bag before emptying the contents into a bowl or a cup to avoid salting the ice cream. 
Grab a spoon and enjoy. It's delicious!

This A2Z post was brought to you by the letter Z. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Y: Yam or Sweet Potato?

 I Yam via photopin (license)

So, those yummy orange potatoes that go so well with turkey...they're not really yams?


But the name, yam, is taken from the African word nyami and means "to eat"...that's perfect for the holiday side dish, right?

Yep, and it does. But you're still not eating yams.

Very few people have probably even eaten a real yam.

Real yams have a thick dark skin, almost like a bark with a white center.

As a matter of fact, if what you're eating is orange- it's most likely a sweet potato.

Why then, do we call them yams?

The USDA allowed the name change to differentiate between the orange variety and the yellower variety of sweet potato.

It was a matter of convenience.

A yam to the left. Sweet potato to the right.
Read more about yam vs. sweet potatoes at
North Caroline Sweet Potatoes

Whether you call them a yam or a sweet potato, they still make a tasty dish. Rich in vitamins A and C. They are also rich in Manganese, a mineral that balances out blood sugar levels. They are also high in fiber and low in fat, or at least they are until I make them.

Here's my very most favorite sweet potato recipe, and boy is it easy...

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

1 large can of sweet potatoes
1/2 stick (or more, if you're Mr. Seckman and trying to clog an artery) of butter
*1/4-1/2  Cup brown sugar (depending on the power of your sweet tooth)
2 tsp (or more, depending on your taste) cinnamon

Drain sweet potatoes, then heat on stove or warm in microwave.
Add butter, sugar, and cinnamon and blend with beaters until smooth.
Warm again, until butter is completely melted.

They're ready to eat!

*I often substitute a sugar alternative like Splenda or Nutrasweet to lower calories or keep them diabetic friendly.

This A2Z post was brought to you by the letter Y. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

X: Xanadu

Welcome to my last post of the A-Z Challenge! Can you tell I was struggling with coming up with an X-word? I learned from my search in the dictionary that this would have been a really easy post had our blog been science-themed. Maybe the other housewives would be willing to become organic chemists with me for next year...

The X-word I settled on to go with my watering post yesterday is Xanadu! For those of you without a dictionary handy, defines it as:

[zan-uh-doo, -dyoo]
1. a place of great beauty, luxury, and contentment.

Xanadu is essentially what I'm sweating my butt off (metaphorically only; there's still lots of butt there) to create while I stand outside watering my lawn every night. Our garden, despite my grumbling, is a huge source of pleasure and contentment for me. On nice days nothing relaxes me more than sitting outside and watching the dragonflies and bees, the birds at the feeders, the cat lounging on my marigolds...

And it all sounds so much swankier if I call my garden Xanadu, doesn't it? Xanadu is the kind of place where I picture reclining with peeled grapes, sparkling wine (with actual corks to pop, no less), koi ponds, and carefully sculpted waterfalls tended by skilled gardeners.... and I wouldn't complain if they were carefully sculpted, too.

Meet Princess Lily Butt. She's confused by the term "flower bed..."
So maybe if I think of it likes this, watering the flowers isn't such a bad chore after all. Right? But gardens and the outdoors aren't everyone's cup of tea. What's your own personal Xanadu at your home?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

W: Watering

As I type this post, I'm playing the procrastination game of watching for the sun to set juuuuuust enough that it's light enough to water the flowers but not bright enough for my still winter-pale skin to suffer the wrath of Helios.

And mostly, honestly, just because watering the flowers is one chore I uber-hate. I love having them, I love seeing, smelling, even planting them, but that maintenance thing... ugh. My hubs isn't a fan, either. So to make this chore at least somewhat tolerable we've tried a few tricks.

1. Automatic Watering Systems - In years past we've tried a few of the more budget-friendly versions with little hoses and plastic valves made apparently of eggshell that sometimes last the whole season, but usually just end up making a leaky mess and drowning the poor flowers. For the number of times we've had to replace cheap timers or valves we probably could have hired a gardener to do it every day for us.

2. Sprinkers  - Ever tried planting flowers in just such a way that a common lawn sprinkler could reach every one of them? That's how much I don't like standing around with a hose.

3. Make It a Drinking Game - PSA: Not a family friendly solution. If you're like me and can't stand the chore, make it fun by drinking a glass of wine every time you drop the hose and accidentally spray yourself. I should really do this in a wet suit.

4, Having Kids - Actually, we haven't tried this one yet. But I hear having kids is a great source of free labor around the house. I've been told they work for only room, board, clothes, electronics, and college tuition.  Hmmm... maybe I'll just train my cat.

What are your lawn care secrets? Any tips to share? 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

V: Visitors

Welcome Visitors! It's V Day. And my house is the cleanest when I have visitors coming. So come on over for a visit. Just give me some advanced warning...

Why I love to have VISITORS (once in a while.)

  1. As I said before, the house is cleaner - things get extra scrubbing when visitors are coming like the microwave, the basement, the dog...
  2. I get to try out new recipes - I like following recipes (and improvising) especially on an appreciative audience of visitors!
  3. Visitors are more appreciative than the local denizens - ah, I just said that, but it's a definite bonus. they notice the cleanliness and effort of being a hostess (and mom)
  4. We do more fun stuff with visitors - we do touristy things, we go to movies, we eat out, and we play games - yay!
  5. My family usually behaves better when visitors are around.
  6. My puppy gets more attention, which he deserves.
  7. I love to catch up, visitors bring interesting conversations - not much of that around my house full of closed-mouthed (yet loud and obnoxious) boys!
my favorite visitors!!
Do you do anything special when you're expecting visitors?
You can visit other blogs from the A to Z challenge HERE.

Monday, April 25, 2016

U: Under

Use Caution! This post might be horrifying - BEWARE! Don't Look UNDER There!!

Yes, it's U Day. And I was serious about this post being horrific! Today I'm talking about the places Around the House we dread to look UNDER...

the Bed. Dust bunnies or fuzz monsters? I find clumps of dog toy stuffing, stray strings, dog hair tufts (everywhere...) and miscellaneous odds and ends we thought were lost.

the Rugs. A rug is not a barrier to keep dirt off the floor, unfortunately... It's sneaky and mysterious. I don't know how, but dirt manages to find it's way under the rug and hides there until I lift it up.

the Couch. Similar to the bed, but worse. Usually crumbs and small toys or game pieces are found as well. Keep the vacuum handy and try not to get sick with disgust.

the Silverware/Tray. How often do you clean yours? This one is another mystery. How do crumbs get in there? Silverware goes in clean and comes out clean. Yet somehow the tray collects tiny crumbs. Eerie.

the Fridge. No. I won't look. Eww! Dusty, linty, moldy, often unrecognizable food! Or an innocent fallen pen, photo, or magnet, now laid to waste covered in gunk and dusted with dog hair - Blech!

So what are you afraid to look UNDER in your house?
You can visit other blogs from the A to Z challenge HERE.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

T: Tiny Spaces

Welcome to the T edition of the April A-Z Challenge! I thought about going for the obvious and talking about my tea stash, but then I realized that's not actually the thing I love most around the house. Let me preface this my saying that I'm a natural nester, a cozy cocooner, and a busy burrower.

If you made it past the terrible alliteration, I'm saying that I adore (read: live for, love, NEED) tiny spaces to make my own cozy little escape nooks. Even when I was a kid I'd seek out the tiny hidden corners and stay for hours - crammed under a shelf in a closet, under the entertainment center, a hidden space in tree branches... that was the best place to sneak off with a book :-)

However, my beer and pizza loving grown-up body just won't fit into those kinds of spaces anymore, so now I live for finding unused corners to take over and make my own. I may not be able to hide there, but there's something about the mostly enclosed nesting feeling that just brings peace back to my crazy days.

Lucky for me, the good folks over at Design Sponge know that tiny spaces are the place to be at all ages. Check out their 10 Cozy Reading Nooks that I bet you'll be finding a way to work into your house now.
From light and airy to dark and cozy, they've got them all!

What are your favorite escapes around the house? Do you have any tiny spaces of your own?

Friday, April 22, 2016

S: Storage Solutions

Happy Friday, y'all!

Today I'm going to harp on one of my favorite topics: STORAGE! Being both a sailor with limited cabin space and a Tiny House lover, finding simple and genius storage hacks is a minor obsession of mine. Especially considering my closets and drawers would probably explode if left to my otherwise messy nature (don't mention my make-up drawer to my husband!).

You can follow my Storage Solutions board on Pinterest if you want to keep up with all the cool ways I'm trying to halt the chaos in my cabinets, but here are a few of my favs to get you started.

1. Magazine Holder for Kitchen BoxesMy personal favorite right here up top. THIS is what keeps the pantry stacks from falling on your head. It never fails - regardless of whether I need the foil, wax paper, plastic wrap, or baking sheets... it's ALWAYS on the bottom of the stack.  

2. Hair Tool Holder out of PVC - Craft your way to a gorgeous solution for jumbled styling tools and cords! I can't tell you how many times I've had to stop with my hair in a towel trying to untangle the hair dryer from the curling iron.

3. Stop the stinky drawer! There's always that one drawer that somehow stays musty. This is a great way to combat the stink.

4. Jewelry Saver for Trips - I've actually thrown away necklaces on trips because I got sick of trying to unknot them. This is great for keeping other small loose items together, too. Taking apart a piece of furniture with lots of tiny screws? Never lose them again while you're working. 

Check out some of the other ideas from some seriously creative geniuses below. What are your favorite storage hacks?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

R: Reminders

R day is upon us. It's a good thing I wrote it on my calendar or I would've forgotten to write my post! I desperately need REMINDERS or things won't get done. As I get older, along with the rest of me that's falling apart, my brain seems to be shrinking too! So today, I'm sharing how I manage to keep up with everything around the house...


Sticky Notes are my favorite invention. I keep pads of paper in every major room of the house to jot down things I need so I don't forget. But sticky notes are brighter, demanding attention. I use them for important reminders. If I need gas, the car ding-a-ling helps, but is easily ignored. A strategically placed sticky note will make me do that chore or buy that item just so I can throw the note away and get it out of my sight! They also travel better, to and from work, or stuck to my keys or phone. They're also great to remind family members of things they may forget to do - like feed the dog, sign a form, brush their teeth, pack their lunches, and don't forget to bring their heads to school...

Magnets are my second favorite invention. I collect them from my travels. And they're an awesome way to post more long-term things like sports schedules and lunch menus, in plain view on the fridge - the most opened door in the house.

Calendars are a beautiful thing. I have a bunch of calendars in my house. Most are for decoration and to glance at to know what day it is when I lose track. It happens. But the most functional calendars I have are on my devices. I used to do paper pencil, but things just change too fast for us these days, and there are so many events to coordinate. It's easier to have everything in one place and accessible to all.

Dry erase boards save paper. Handy, easy to write on, glance at, erase & update. One more reminder tool option.

Lists are encouraging notes of love. I love lists. They help me remember. They prod me to finish things. They don't yell at me, they patiently wait to be fulfilled. Crossing things off gives me a sense of accomplishment. Lists are the best!

Timers are a necessity. Did I say I was forgetful? (ha!) I not only use timers for cooking, I use them for laundry, pickup times, appointments, etc. They keep me in line and almost on time!

My phone does his part too. I'm slowly converting almost all of the above to my phone - calendars, timers, lists, etc. as I grudgingly plod forward into the future... But I still like sticky notes best!

Prioritizing is the key to organization, but unless I write it down, it ain't gettin done.

Do you have any reminder advice? Pass it on!
You can visit other blogs from the A to Z challenge HERE.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Q: Queen

Are you the Queen of your castle? You should be. The answer is, Yes you are!

It's Q day, and I want to celebrate all the housewives out there - women married to their families, no matter the status, even single women who take care of their homes. This blog is for us all! And here is my salutatory poem for you!

The Queen of the House

The caregiver, the meal maker, the mess cleaner,
The grime gouger, the organizer, the bill payer,
The homework helper, the etiquette exampler, the punishment doler,
The primary diaper changer, the boo-boo kisser,
The frantic worrier, the tough-love sufferer, the chore distributor,
The praise extoller, the great embarrasser, the proud crower,
The never-enough-hugger, the number one encourager, the safety-net holder,
The best face-(speaks-louder-than-words)-maker,
The last resort picker-upper, the insect warrior, the menace protector,
The dog walker, the main driver, the overtime-practice waiter,
The healthy talker, the outside sender, the video-time monitor,
The school lunch preparer, the deal no-taker, the excuse disclaimer,
The dress code enforcer, the problem fixer, the wrong-done denouncer,
The tear wiper, the silent bystander, the when-necessary blame taker,
The self-sacrificer, the last-in-line taker, the first defender,
The love bestower, the kind-but-firm discipliner, the reassurer,
The nest nudger, the advice distributor, the final decider,
The go-to, smartest-in-the-land, all-knowing, all-seeing, making-magic-happen

Every woman out there is the Queen of the House - and we deserve the utmost respect! Here at the RRHA, our goal is to help each other be the best Queens of the House we can be!

I bet you could add something to the list and I'd love to hear it!
You can visit other blogs from the A to Z challenge HERE.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

P: Plants

Daffodil greens.
Hostas are growing behind, so I won't
need to band them to make room for other flowers.
Take care of spring plants now for better plants next year.

I love my spring blooms. Nothing is more welcoming after winter than bright spots of color, and spring bulbs are like wonderful gifts from nature. They're easy to care for and naturally prolific with a few easy steps:

Cut flowers. Feel free to cut blooms for indoor bouquets. It actually strengthens the bulbs to be flowerless.

Deadhead flowers. Once the flowers have died, cut away the dead flower. It allows the plant to divert its energy to the roots, allowing for more bulbs.

To get healthier plants, clip away
dead blooms. I left these just for this post ;)

Allow the greenery to die out before removing. It's tempting to cut away the greenery once the flowers are gone, but don't. Allowing the plant to yellow and wither on its own will get you more bulbs. It will also make the older bulbs healthier.

Band them if you need to plant around them. Wrap a rubber band around large growths of green, like with daffodils and hyacinths to allow them to die away and make room for summer plants.

Separate flowers that have no room to spread. These flowers will naturally grow and spread, but when the idea is to keep them contained in a flowerbed- you may need to separate the flowers.

To separate:

These are getting thick and could be thinned.
Tulips and hyacinths need a new home.
Dig, never pull up the bulbs. Since bulbs reproduce from the outside of the clump, be sure to dig a bit wider than the plant appears topside. Gently pull away some of the new bulbs and plant in a new spot.

Plant 6-8" deep. Planted too shallowly, and fluffy bunnies might show up thinking you set out a buffet just for them.

Most plant sites recommend moving bulbs in the fall when the bulbs are heading into dormancy, but soon enough for the roots to take hold before winter. I tend to move them whenever I need to make room, and I've never had a problem.

I don't have a green thumb, and I have a yard full of flowers that I started from a few starts.

This is an A2Z post brought to you by the letter P

Monday, April 18, 2016

O: Outside

It' almost summertime, unless you're living in the southern hemisphere.

On this side of the globe, we're ready to be done with snow and cold and enjoy some sunshine.

Relaxation is just a few prep steps away.

Got some garden gnomes going gray? 

Don't toss them. give them a good scrub and a fresh coat of paint. The small paint brushes in the craft aisle are the perfect size for the smaller details.

Coat with polyurethane for a longer lasting finish.

 Prep that deck!

Give your deck a good scrub at the beginning of the season. A bucket of warm water filled with dish soap and a cup of vinegar will clean the wood without damaging it. (Never use bleach, which will rot the wood.)

Mop it on the whole surface and then spray it all down with the water hose.

Outdoor furniture fit to sit on?

Give outdoor furniture new life with fresh paint. Even cheap plastic lawn chairs can be spray painted. Scrub off the excess dirt, rinse, and spray. For plastic lawn chairs, you can get spray paint made especially for plastic. It works great.

 Give your siding a scrub.

The exterior walls of your house can grow mildew and collect dirt. Once again, the mop and a bucket of dish soap and vinegar does the trick. Mop it on, spray it off.

Windows need to be grime free to enjoy the sunshine.

To get my sills clean after a long winter, I stick with the dish soap and vinegar. To add sparkle to the glass once the dirt is washed away, I like to get window cleaner from the automotive aisle. It seems to streak less and sparkle faster.

Now that your space is cleaned up, it's time to grab a good book, a glass of lemonade, and relax.

This has been your A-Z post for the letter O

Saturday, April 16, 2016

N: Nesting

It's that time. The soon-to-be-mom is frantically running through the house, through the store, and driving everyone batty. Baby clothes are everywhere. Stacks of baby items haven't found their place, yet. Furniture is boxed still, ready to be set up for the new arrival.

And suddenly, IT HAS TO BE ALL BE DONE...NOW! Oh, the joys of NESTING!!

Soon-to-be-mom, or soon-to-be-mom-again, has one goal and one goal only. It's more of a yell/scream/wild holler sound of, "We have to get everything ready!!! The baby will be here soon!!!"

Old wives' tales say that once a mother has the urge to nest, labor is coming. Can you imagine having that kind of timetable indicator? It's like the turkey timer!

The devil in me is like, whoa, people, take advantage of the moment! Let her deep clean! This will be the last time in months she'll feel this energetic to do it! However, here are some tips to help nesting succeed in a healthy manor for mom, baby...and ESPECIALLY you.

1) Don't let her lift heavy objects (Like a dish, so you do dishes.)
2) No ladders. It's terrible for the equilibrium. (Hence, send her shopping to make sure she doesn't climb it.)
3) Avoid chemicals like bleach and oven cleaners, and use ventilation. (Basically, she needs to go to a spa to avoid these period!)
4) Encourage rest and to save some of that energy for when baby comes! (Like at before mentioned spa.)
5) Stand back when she starts looking like the Hulk coming after you. (Because you didn't listen to me!)

1) Have any tips to add?
2) What kind of "nester" were you or your significant other?
3) Ever see the Hulk nester?

Friday, April 15, 2016

M: Marriage

Happy Friday, everyone! Amanda (A.G.) Porter is back with her third and final post of the week and today she's talking about marriage. Give her a warm welcome and thank her for joining us this week as a guest!

I was sitting with a group of kids, playing Apples to Apples. If you’ve never played it, it’s really a fun game. The concept is pretty easy. Everyone gets Red Apple Cards with an array of words on them and each person gets a turn being the judge of the Green Apples Cards, which have a Word on it. You use the Red Apple Cards in your hand to best describe that word.

This particular round the word was “Tough.” I looked at the cards in my hand and the only thing I had that was remotely close was “Gang Members.” I played it, figuring it would at least get a good laugh. Well, as the Red Apple Cards were read aloud, garnering giggles as they normally do, the last card was flipped over. The word on it was “Marriage.”

It hit me that this was coming from kids, the oldest one being 17 and the youngest being 14. They thought marriage was tough. I thought to myself, “What do they know about marriage?”

I almost opened my mouth to say something. The words were on the tip of my tongue. Then, for some reason, I stopped. I didn’t know these kids really. They were kids I had been with for the past three days, subbing for the Band Director of the school my stepson went to. Some of them I knew in passing, but others, I had just been able to recall their names.

I didn’t know what they saw at home. Maybe they came from blended families or perhaps single parent homes. Maybe they had both of their parents and they saw fights on a daily basis. Or, maybe their parents loved each other, but they saw through that veil that we, as parents, put up. The one we use to hide how hard it is to make marriage work.


Thanks for that great take, Amanda! She brings up a great point. So many of us go to great lengths to show children and families only the best of our marriages, whether in an effort to spare them worry or keep them from jumping to conclusions, or simply because so many of us grew up learning that we don't wash our dirty laundry in public. But marriage is a team effort and even the happiest teams have occasional challenges. 

So it's your turn, dear readers - how open are you with your children in discussing your marriage? 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

L : Lighting

You're probably thinking lightening isn't that cool. But that's because you probably haven't googled or hit up Pinterest for ideas on lighting for your home. I mean, who does?

When I discovered the DIY boom, I discovered lighting! It's not just a lamp. It's not just a ceiling fixture. It's so much more! It lights up the room. Lights up the meal. Lights up everyone's mood when it lights up!

My early marriage days consisted of the basic floor lamp. Tall, skinny, and a plastic blue. Boy, have I moved on! Now it's more Victorian. I even have one with an attached chord to a step-button to turn on/off.

Now, check out some awesome lighting fixtures you probably didn't think of! Some are created simply using basic decorations and adding string lights. Others are using light bulbs and touching up the look with either a replacement "shade" or hanging them from something!

1. Did I get your mind reeling on some ideas for your house?
2. What kind of lighting style are you?
3. Lights out or lights on when...jk! Don't answer that...

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

K: Kitchen

 We get to welcome back Amanda (A.G.) Porter today for the 2nd of her 3 posts this week! Today she's got the letter K and she's talking about what the kitchen means to her family. Take it away, Amanda!


I live in a small town, in a small house with a small kitchen. It’s so tiny in fact that there just isn’t any room for a dishwasher. That means, yes, we wash dishes by hand. It might sound like an ancient practice to some, but to me, it’s something that I’ve always done. My momma taught me how to wash dishes, cook supper, and set a table in a small kitchen not unlike my own. There was no room in our tiny house for a dinning room so our table was right there, next to the counter with the canisters labeled, flour, sugar, and so on.
Believe it or not, kitchen work isn’t for just the ladies. My brother was right there with my sisters and I, washing, cleaning, and cooking.
All of things that Momma taught me I have taught my stepson. When he moves out, I want him to be able to make more than macaroni or Ramen Noodles for himself. I want him to impress his future Bride with his kitchen smarts. I want a lot for him, but one thing I want the most is to leave him with the ability to take care of himself.

Did you know that you can learn a lot in the kitchen other than how to cook or clean? For a long time, I didn’t. It wasn’t until I was washing dishes, my husband beside me, talking, that I realized that it was a place that we have had a lot of conversations as a family. We talk about problems, we’ve tried to solve a few, I’ve had to give out some harsh lectures to my stepson, and it’s where I’ve had to hold him as he’s cried, reminding him that even though I discipline him, I still love him. 

Great post, Amanda! Now for you lovely readers - what does your kitchen mean to YOU?

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