Friday, November 15, 2013

Making Homemade Vanilla Extract

I’ve heard how easy it is to make your own vanilla extract and it’s been on my to-do list for quite some time now. Thanks to the folks at Beanilla, they gave me the opportunity to try it out by sending me one Homemade Vanilla Extract Infusion Kit.

I was so excited when I opened the mailbox and saw the package from Beanilla in there! I opened it as soon as I got in the house and I found one swing top bottle with 7 Madagascar vanilla beans in it along with a small card from Beanilla about the company. That was it!? I thought to myself, where are the directions? This can’t be it! Well, I spun the bottle around and there they were…directions on the back of label! The only thing I needed was vodka because everything else was there. How easy it that?
The swing top bottle is adorable with its label on front. The label includes a blank area to write the date and the type of vanilla beans it includes. My infusion kit includes Madagascar vanilla beans which are described as having a rich and creamy flavor. Sounds perfect for baking!
First, I took the beans out of the bottle (they smell great by the way!) and laid them out on a plate so I could slice them open. I sliced them down the middle leaving ¼ - ½ inch still connected at the top and bottom. Once sliced, I put the beans back in the bottle.

Cutting vanilla beans
Second, I poured 1 cup of vodka into the bottle until the vanilla beans were covered.

Add vodka

Third, I gave them a shake and then I put them in a cool, dark place. In the pantry!

Vanilla extract after bottling

Close up to see current color - clear
Fourth, wait. Being patient has never been one of my strong points, but I’m getting better as I get older.
Once or twice a week you’re supposed to shake the bottle. According to the directions it tells you to shimmy to the beat of a B52’s song. I have to admit that I didn’t know that song and my husband was quick to look it up. We watched the video on YouTube while I shimmied and shook the bottle as directed. If my bottle of vanilla extract could talk I think it would say it’s proud of me for following the directions so well!

2 weeks after bottling. Look at the color!
I’m so excited to see how the end product turns out. Thank you, Beanilla, for getting me started on making my own vanilla extract. I love Beanilla for buying vanilla beans. If you'd like to start making your own vanilla extract and don't know where to start, check out this homemade vanilla extract infusion kit. Homemade vanilla would make excellent gifts as would the infusion kit. Add this to your Christmas list!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Homemade Laundry Detergent

We've been wanting to make our own laundry detergent for a while, but...
1. We wanted to wait until we used up the detergent we had AND
2. We wanted to wait until we were moved in to our new house

A few months ago we attended a local Green Fair and learned about different things...composting, eco friendly products, organic food and how to make your own laundry detergent. My husband and I were still using up our old detergent at the time so put the detergent recipe off to the side until now.

We purchased all the necessary ingredients and were ready to get started.
We added an ingredient (OxiClean) and have found a way to make it scented if we want. It was easy to make and we'll definitely make more. I've read several articles about the benefits of homemade detergent and one of the benefits is softer clothing. Most people said you will see a noticeable (positive) change after the article of clothing has been washed a few times.

Next, I'd like to find a cute container that I can put the detergent in. Next time I run to the store I will have to browse the container/canister aisle and see what I can find. I'm so excited that we're able to start using this new detergent now.

Please let me know if you have any advice for us. Thank you!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Our Energy Efficient House

Our house is complete!! It's only taken what seems like forever to finish, but it's done! I have to admit that it's nice to be in a house again. We no longer have people walking around upstairs with their shoes on, slamming cupboards or having company late at night. We no longer have to use quiet voices and walking feet when we get home. AND...the boys each have their own room! I'm not sure who is more excited about them having separate rooms: us or them??

There are so many great things about our new house. It starts with the poured concrete foundation and the SIPs (structurally insulated panels) it's made with. Our attic was spray foamed as well as the vents and perimeter of our basement. We installed ceiling fans in all 3 bedrooms and the living room. Cree (US made) LED light bulbs were put in most fixtures. (Especially those used most often.) We have low flow faucets and shower heads installed in the kitchen and all bathrooms. When the house was done we received a report about the contents of the dumpster and almost 2/3 of the items were recycled! How's that for being green?

The most exciting addition in our new home??  We have dual flush toilets in our bathrooms and even have a waterless URINAL thanks to American Standard!! The waterless urinal definitely helps keep our water usage down with the number of times the boys go to the bathroom. This is the best feature in our house!! Our plumber had never installed a residential urinal so this was new to him as well. As you can see, the urinal hides nicely in the back of the bathroom and you don't notice it until you have to use it. Thank you SO MUCH to America Standard! We are grateful for their generosity and appreciate it very much!

Now it's all about making it feel like home. We have to go through all our pictures and frames to see what will go where. We are waiting for our blinds to arrive so we have some privacy. I'd like to add a window box to our front porch so it feels a little more like home also. The most recent thing we did was add shutters to the front windows and they look great! 

We are also having our house green certified and should be receiving our certificate in the mail. Once received, I think I'll  frame it and post in the entry way. Why not show people what all our green decisions led to in the end, right?

People say you'll hit bumps in the road when building a new house and I think we hit every single bump. Regardless of the issues we had, we love the house! It is our new HOME!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Making a Healthier Lifestyle

I've been on a health kick for the last several months. It all started with Christmas when I asked for new pans. They're ceramic instead of teflon so I'm not poisoning my family when I cook amymore. I've been implementing new ingredients into our menu too...quinoa, couscous and making my own seasonings. I started with my own taco seasoning and this weekend I made a mix to use instead of cream soups called S.O.S mix (soup or sauce mix).
Ingredients in the taco seasoning. 

Finished product! 
S.O.S (soup or sauce mix)

Why did I decide to make my own seasoning and cream of soup mix? Because now I know (and can pronounce) all the ingredients that are in our taco seasoning and other dishes. When it comes to the cream of soup mix it's a little different. It isn't as thick as a creamy soup so I need to look into it more. Do you make any of your own mixes? Pinterest gives me a lot of inspiration when it comes to cooking and new recipes. My only problem is trying to find the time to make these recipes. If you have a favorite recipe or homemade mix to substitute for another item I'd love to hear it!!

Monday, February 18, 2013

What is Scentsy? It's Awesome!!

I had heard about Scentsy, but didn't really know what it was until a friend of mine signed up to sell it. I figured I would have a basket party to help her get started and of course I needed to buy a few things for myself.
I've come to love Scentsy! Why? Because safety is a must with two young children at home. Because I want a scent that doesn't disappear after a week. Because the warmers are fun, unique and add style to our home/office. Because Scentsy isn't just scented's more. They have adorable Scentsy buddies, travel tins for lockers and back packs, scent circles for cars and personal care items.
Are you interested in finding out what Scentsy is all about? Have you run out of your favorite scent and need more? Would you like to host a house or basket party? If so, let me know because I'd love to help you out. You can view my Scentsy webpage here.

More Changes...Good Ones!

So here are a few months later and we have made progress. First, we have a hole in the ground that will soon be our basement. Woohoo! Our SIPs walls should be delivered at the end of the week which means framing will begin late this week/next week. We check out the progress almost every day and it's amazing how much those guys can get done in one day.

We've ordered pine trees too and they should arrive at the end of April. When this is all said and done we'll have a new home with a windbreak to help protect us from these chilly, windy nights. We're SO excited!!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Great Gift Idea for the Men in Your Life

My husband recently purchased this Urban Warrior backpack and is in love with it. You can purchase it at Military Luggage for only $79.95. Here's what my husband had to say about this:
The Black Urban Warrior Backpack was exactly what I had hoped for in a backpack. My 17” HP fits nice and snugly, and there is plenty of room to keep the electronics accessories safe. I love the big bottom pocket for a space to keep the used PT clothes away from the rest of the packed items. It also fit my entire ACU uniform, with boots, and had plenty of room to spare. I put some of my MOLLE gear on the side with the MOLLE webbing on each side of the backpack pockets.
I also wanted this backpack for my outdoor activities, which at this time of year includes cold water walleye fishing in MN. The Urban Warrior held my four plastic cases for the different rigs, the extra cold weather gear, waterproof gear and lunch. My 5 year old loved having the insulated pocket for his hot chocolate, and getting his own big pocket in the backpack for his favorite lures, scale and camera!
We also filled it with our ice fishing tackle, electronics and warm clothes, and we did a practice pull of all of our stuff through the snow filled yard. The pack handled well, felt good on the back and was easily able to hold all of our equipment.
Lastly, we took this and packed it with both the boys (5 and 3 years old) toys and clothes for a weekend at Grandma’s house for Thanksgiving weekend. Each boy had a pocket for their stuff (toys), changes of clothes and all their winter gear to play in the snow. It was just right for their stuff and all of their snowpants, big jackets, boots, hats and gloves. We cannot wait to use this for all of our outdoor activities, and I will keep using it every day for work!