I needed to bring along snacks to share for a couple of fun events I was attending this 4th of July weekend. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned previously, I live in a charming 100+ year old marginally-insulated cottage (emphasis on marginally-insulated!). Therefore, when it is summertime, time spent in the kitchen (which has NO insulation, except for what I installed in the cabinets after having peanut butter melt last summer) is at a minimum.
I pulled out my beloved recipe collection to see if there was an oldie but goodie I could pull together without contributing to the ongoing labors of the air conditioning unit. I had forgotten all about this savory little gem. You can easily find this recipe online, but in the years since I first received it, I’ve tweaked it to suit our tastes, and to optimize the drying/soaking up the oil process (while still keeping the crackers crunchy). Oyster Cracker Snack Mix was a big hit at both events, and I had a number of requests for the recipe, so here you go:
Oyster Cracker Snack Mix
1 box/bag of oyster crackers (little round saltine crackers, usually found floating in soup — go ahead and buy the cheapest ones you can find, because you are going to transform them!)
½ cup oil (vegetable or olive)
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dry dill weed
1 small package original dry Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix
Whisk oil and all dry ingredients (except crackers), until well blended.
Add the crackers and stir until all are coated with oil mixture.
Remove crackers from oil mixture with slotted spoon. Place in single layer on cookie sheets lined with paper towels to dry.
I hurried this process along a bit by putting the three cookie sheets (I tripled the recipe for event-attending!) on the dining room table under a ceiling fan at high speed. Store in a closed container to keep them crunchy (but I doubt there will be much leftover to “store”).
Enjoy! (and I dare you to eat just one)
I grew up as a Marine Corps brat and then married a man in the Navy. It is safe to say I know a thing or two about packing up my household goods and moving them around the country. From birth until now, I have had NINE major moves (traveling 400 miles or more) and I am embarking on my 10th this week. On top of those, I have also had NINE small, in town moves. I will never be able to share stories of the one area I grew up in, or how we always went to grandma’s house for Sunday dinner. You know what? That is okay with me! I have LOVED my life “on the road” and I enjoy having THAT story to share with people.
Part of that story is always the moves. Oh, the moves! Like that time my mom almost took out an entire gas pump towing our car behind a Uhaul semi. Or the Budget truck I rented that MAXED out at 50 miles an hour on the freeway. Let’s not forget went we stopped at the dairy farm and got to see how milk was bottled!
I am lucky enough that the military contracts moving companies to pack us up and send us on our way. However, I have had my fair share of DIY moves everywhere from packing stuff in the wagon and walking it down the street to the time I, Me, Marissa towed a FULL flatbed trailer behind a 29 FOOT rental truck. Now THAT was a proud moment (so maybe I did it more than once)!
I feel confident saying: when it comes to moves, I have some decent advice to impart. As I’m taking a break from my own preparations today, I wanted to jot down some tips I have for those of you that may not have gone through all the experiences I have. It’s not a fully comprehensive list, but it’s a great place to start and just might be one of those things that you didn’t think of yourself.
1. PURGE! PURGE! PURGE!
That’s right! In my opinion, the most important way to prepare for a move is to get rid of your crap! There is nothing worse then boxing items up and moving them only to ask yourself later, “Why did I bother?!” No matter how much cleaning out you do, I guarantee you will still move things you decide you don’t want once you reach your destination, but the more prep work you do ahead of time, the lighter your move will be…and that saves a lot of back work! I recommend starting this process AT LEAST three months before your move.
2. Create a “Bucket List”
It happens every time. As I’m ready to move, all I can think of is all the things I did NOT get to see or do in the town I am leaving. You get into a comfort zone in your town of residency and before you know it, it’s time to leave! Get a friend on board with you too! In Virginia, my best friend joined me on many of my adventures and we were both able to experience so much of our town that we had never done before! I recommend you start this process AT LEAST six months before you move. It took five years living on the coast of Virginia before I finally tried paddle boarding:
3. LABEL! LABEL! LABEL!
Whether you are moving yourself or paying someone, labeling your boxes correctly saves a TON of time. I LOVE the customizable labels I created. You can print them out for whichever specific rooms you want. It makes the move go much more smoothly and you spend less time rearranging boxes after you have reached your new location. Not to mention, if you are paying someone to move you and a box is lost in the process, you actually have a chance that it will get returned to you because it has your new address on it. Click the link to see the details in my post.
4. Get Liquor Boxes From Your Local Package Store
Even with a moving company, there are always some items you will want to move yourself. Or there are items that the moving company WON’T move for you (bottles with liquids, alcohol, prescriptions, hazards, jewelry, lightbulbs, etc). I have found the best boxes to use for these items come from the liquor store. They are super strong because they are meant to hold pounds and pounds of liquid and they are just the right size to easily carry. Plus, every liquor store I have ever asked gives them to you for FREE! They are always throwing boxes out (you can also often find free or cheap boxes on Freecycle or Craigslist). Of course, it helps to have actual wine in some of those boxes too!
Set these boxes and any other “I’m moving these” items aside and “rope it off” so the movers know not to take it. Suitcases, electronics, toiletries, anything you are bringing yourself. This saves a lot of “am I supposed to pack this?” questions later.
In the final days before the pack-out, I spend a lot of my time just moving stuff around. I make sure all the clean linens are in the same place, appropriate kids toys are together, picture frames in a stack, etc. This way, when you or the company are packing, everything is ending up in the right boxes together, or close to it. It’s a little work to do in advance, to save a lot of work later when you are searching through piles of boxes with that specific flat sheet in it. These items below are just stacked in the right area as nicely folded as possible because they don’t fit with the rest of their “friends.”
6. Clean Your Things!
As the last topic mentioned, get those sheets, towels, linens, dishes, coffee pots, appliances, you name it – CLEAN! More than likely this will be done the day or two before the packers arrive. If a company is moving you – THEY WILL PACK EVERYTHING, most often without asking any questions. You left a trash can full of trash in the bathroom? Guess what, you will be unpacking a box that has a trashcan filled with trash on the other end. You left dirty dishes in the dishwasher? Yep, those will get packed too. The packers’ job is simply to empty your house into boxes and get it out of there. They do not care if you took care of all the things you should have before they arrived.
7. Bag Up Small Items
Same idea…anything you keep in a drawer or small storage will more than likely just be tossed into a box. Packers do not worry about organization. That is your job, not theirs. If you want it to stay organized, separate it out, bag it up, and get it ready to be tossed in a box! Besides, things will be SO much easier to put away when they are taken care of in advance. We learned the hard way with these items pictured below. The packers actually packed the drawer sets just fine into boxes. Unfortunately, these drawers are not air tight and ALL of our nuts, bolts, nails, etc were in the bottom of the boxes these drawer sets had been packed into.
I know SO MANY people who micromanage their movers. They are SURE this is what keeps their workers “honest.” I even knew someone who made their entire moving crew work in the same room at the same time as they sat and watched over the movers – so they could be sure nothing was being broken or stolen. These, of course, in my opinion, are always the people who have problems later. I have NEVER had anything stolen, and we have had to deal with only minor breaks and repairs to claim after our goods were delivered. I feel this is due a lot to the fact that we show our crews we trust them and that we are there to help THEM do their job. I hang around where necessary to answer questions, I move things I notice are going in the wrong place, I’m just generally present. Not overbearing. Naturally, things can, and will, often go wrong and you should take the appropriate steps to make sure your move is being handled correctly.
When the military is paying for your move, you are not supposed to tip your movers with money. They want to ensure the playing field is even and all ranks and rates of all the services are getting a move well done. Our answer to this is to supply plenty of drinks and buy lunch at least one day. You never know though, you may have a totally different crew every day and that can add up fast, so make sure you set aside some cash or food to treat your moving crew. I stay away from pizza because, well, everyone gets their movers pizza. I know I would be sick of it!
Not moving military style? All packers and movers appreciate a tip (I usually do $20 each in this case).
9. Take Apart Large Furniture and Bag Up the Small Parts in Advance
MOVE THOSE PARTS WITH YOU!!! Even though you need to let the movers do their job, most movers will never do this particular job AS WELL AS YOU will do it. After taking furniture apart, we put the parts into ziploc bags and move them ourselves along with some vital tools like screwdrivers, hammers, flashlight, batteries, BOX CUTTERS, scissors, etc. The law of lost things will definitely apply. Once you move, your bed will be in parts in one place and the screws will be hiding in another box somewhere else. Clearly, this will most surely be the LAST BOX you end up opening because even though you labeled everything, it still managed to get lumped in with the “old papers that don’t need to be opened” box. Another option is to tape these baggies to one of the actual furniture pieces, but we have found these still get lost.
10. Relax and Remember: This Too Shall Pass
Moving can be stressful. Roll with the punches and grab a glass of wine from those liquor boxes you’re moving! No matter what happens, your things WILL get packed, you WILL get to your next house, you WILL get unpacked (well, hopefully) and you will start a whole new adventure in your new location. Sometimes the only things worrying will accomplish is giving you more wrinkles.
We also approach our unpack this way – are goal is to be COMPLETELY unpacked in 24 hours. Sounds crazy, huh? It kind of is, especially since we are a family a FIVE. We totally work our butts off to do it, but we are always so happy when it’s done. This usually even includes hanging pictures and breaking down all the boxes. You automatically feel like your new house is your new home.
Many moving companies will return to pick up the unpacked boxes for you later because that means they will save money on the next move they do. No movers? List your boxes on Craigslist. You can usually get a good penny for them. Too much of a hassle? List them on Freecycle and they will usually be gone by the end of the same day.
What other tips do you have to share?! Please leave them in our comment section below!
A few of you know that last year I graduated with my MLIS, a master’s in library and information studies. I taught for 10 years but helping students find the perfect book and collaborating with classroom teachers was what I really wanted to do. I am about to finish my first year as a teacher librarian and I have loved every minute of it. Well, every minute of the job. The working part? I am still not a fan but if I am going to work, it might as well be doing something that I love.
As the school year comes to an end, I am beginning to focus on the things that my children and I will do throughout the summer. In addition to all of the fun summer activities like museum visits, poolside sitting, and hiking, I try to incorporate learning activities to keep our brains active as well.
This summer, I decided that I was going to help my kids explore the library a little bit more. I have noticed that lately they both head to the same sections every time we visit. To show them what else the library has to offer, I have created both a game board and a bingo card. Each square of the game board and the bingo card offer up a different task.
I hope we have fun exploring the library!
Print the Dewey Decimal game board.
Print the Bingo Card.
It is my first day of spring break … a bit cool outside, but I’d rather have this weather than the early heat and humidity we had last week! I have about two week’s worth of “to-do” list to accomplish during my one week off, and a lot of those tasks involve cleaning and reorganizing in my little historic cottage. It is amazing how quickly “life” accumulates.
I was cleaning out the fridge this morning before heading out to Bailey’s Market, my favorite place to buy fresh fruits and veggies. I found a container of cut-up papaya, leftovers from a fruit salad taken to work for a birthday celebration earlier this week. It was really ripe when I first cut it up and was now way too mushy to eat. I hate to waste food. I didn’t have yogurt (or any other appropriate fruit) on hand to make a smoothie. I remembered an old recipe for papaya break (the cheapest fruit available during those years we lived in Hawaii), tweaked a couple of the ingredients and cooking method, and made these delicious muffins. I prefer the muffins — they bake quicker and more evenly and I can control my portions. These will freeze beautifully, waiting to be popped out a couple at a time the night before in order to be ready for breakfast.
- 1 cup ripe papaya, smashed with a fork
- 1⁄2 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1⁄4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
- 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1⁄2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1⁄4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1⁄2 cup raisins
- 1⁄2 cup chopped pecans
- Squeeze the papaya to get out as much liquid as possible. Cream the butter with the sugar. Add the eggs. Beat well. Gradually add the dry ingredients. Stir in the papaya, raisins, and chopped pecans. Spoon the batter into lightly greased pan (or line with paper muffin cups). Bake in a 375° oven for about 18 minutes, until lightly browned. If using paper muffin cups you can remove from the muffin pan immediately. Otherwise, let cool in the pan for a few minutes before removing. Freezes well. Makes about 16.
- Squeeze the papaya to get out as much liquid as possible
- Cream the butter with the sugar
- Add the eggs, beat well
- Gradually add the dry ingredients
- Stir in the papaya, raisins, and chopped pecans
- Spoon the batter into lightly greased pan (or line with paper muffin cups)
- Bake in a 375° oven for about 18 minutes, until lightly browned
- If using paper muffin cups you can remove from the muffin pan immediately
- Otherwise, let cool in the pan for a few minutes before removing.
- Freezes well. Makes about 16.
Have you missed us? We’ve missed you! Since Christmas, Jen and Marissa have been repeatedly snowed in. Marissa has been working hard to get her “Naturally Knitting” business going (you can find and follow her on Facebook) and Jen has been busy with book fairs (in her paying job) and teaching herself to crochet. I had some major deadlines at work and then was laid low with pneumonia. This weekend was lovely here on the Gulf Coast. My house was clean, I had no major deadlines looming, and so I decided to do a bit of sewing.
This project was inspired by one of those free project flyers I picked up at JoAnn’s. Their directions left something to be desired so I decided to give it a go, especially since I’ve wanted a “state” pillow for a long time but had been put off by high prices or low quality of the ones I’ve found online or in stores.
- Pillow form (I made a new pillow cover for an old form)
- Fabric (you’ll want to use something with some body to it, nothing too light)
- Waste canvas, 10 count
- Embroidery Floss
- Permanent Washout or disappearing marker
- Embroidery needle (sharp)
Follow my easy pillow directions to cut fabric for pillow form cover.
Find a map that will fit your desired pillow form size and shape. I did a quick search and found a great US Map tab on the Geology.com website.
Get that map onto a piece of paper.
–Print from your computer.
–I started to hit “print” and then realized that I could save on expensive printer ink (I think it costs more than the darn printer!) by using the lap top as a (very expensive) light table. You just need a basic outline, nothing fancy, so this worked fine.
Cut waste canvas so it is just an inch or so larger than your design.
Place waste canvas on top of paper and trace design onto waste canvas, using a permanent washout or disappearing marker (Note: I used permanent marker, not thinking about the fact that the marker is on the waste canvas, which is treated with something like starch and is supposed to wash out! Luckily, the little bit of “run” was only on the waste canvas threads, but would have been disastrous if it had run onto my white pillow fabric).
Center, pin and then baste wherever you want the design placed on your finished pillow.
Cross-stitch using a sharp needle and four strands of your chosen floss color. Unlike other cross-stitch projects, be sure to knot the ends on the “wrong” side. I didn’t worry about the “Xs” being perfect since I was going for kind of a primitive look.
When done with the stitching, remove the basting threads. Thoroughly wet the fabric/waste canvas and let dry.
Remove the waste canvas threads. You may need to use a pair of tweezers to pull out the threads. It may seem tedious, but you’ll have better results (and no pulled stitches) if you pull out one waste canvas thread at a time.
Iron and use fabric to sew together a pillow cover.
When an opportunity to review a tool that was supposed to “revolutionize cleaning your shower” came up, I said yes. The Shower Shimmy was created by a local Denver mom just like the rest of us moms (and dads…because let me be honest…my husband cleans the bathrooms more than I do) who hate to clean their bathrooms.
I loathe cleaning the bathrooms. It is always the last thing I do when cleaning house and sometimes I have to devote an entire day to it because it takes me so long. Not because my bathrooms are so dirty or large, but because I hate it that much. I clean the sink. Then I wander around the house looking for something else. Then I clean the shower. After that I might go check my email. You get the picture. I hate cleaning the bathrooms. We moved into our new-to-us house and the shower in the master bath is one of the only things that I don’t really love about the house. Anything I can do to improve that shower until I can afford to replace it is worth a try.
In steps the Shower Shimmy. The Shower Shimmy is an all-in-one tool that cleans your shower, scrubs your grout, and squeegees your shower glass. What I love most about the Shower Shimmy is that the cleaning solution is safe to use even in the shower. I have it hanging near my shower so I can give the shower a quick scrub to help keep the major cleanings down to a minimum.
I put the Shower Shimmy to the test and I really like it as a cleaning tool. I used it in our glass shower as well as my kids’ bathroom.
*I was sent a Shower Shimmy to put to the test. All opinions are my own. We won’t ever share anything with you that we don’t like enough to use ourselves.
There are just some things that make you think of the holiday season. My mom’s Microwave English Toffee is one of those things. In the past, I haven’t had much luck making this myself, so when my mom was in town this week, I had her make it and teach me how. Our batch turned out beautifully!
I know the holidays are over, but this toffee is great to bring to a party, keep around for a special treat, or just when you are craving something sweet.
A few things that I learned while making this with my mom:
Place tin foil on a cookie sheet to make clean up easier.
Stir, stir, stir! If you don’t stir everything well, then you will get a greasy and oily layer on top of your toffee and it will not set properly.
Make sure that it spreads out evenly. Our toffee was so thick that it is hard to bite off pieces!
- 1 cup butter (must be butter)
- 1 small (6 oz) package of chocolate chips
- 1 box dark brown sugar (must be dark brown sugar)
- 1/2 cup ground almonds (optional)
- In a 2qt bowl, cook butter for 1 1/2 minutes until melted.
- Stir in brown sugar and cook 8-9 minutes or to the hard crack stage.
- Pour mixture on a greased cookie sheet and spread out. Let cool for a minute or two.
- Sprinkle with chocolate chips. When chocolate chips are shiny, spread to cover. Sprinkle with nuts if desired.
- Refrigerate to set.
- Break into small pieces.
A few years ago, we stopped sending Christmas cards for a number of reasons. A few of those reasons include the cost and time spent. We also keep up with everybody through email and Facebook so I didn’t see much of a need. Over the past few months though, I have been thinking that there are a handful of folks who I would like to send a card to.
Enter personalized stationary by my new friend, Laura Kelley, on stage right.
I had the pleasure of spending an evening with Laura and she is as fabulous as her many products. What a special surprise it was to receive some personalized Christmas cards and notepads with Laura Kelly’s signature peeps and Expressionery.
How adorable are these cards? I love that they are personalized with my kiddos names. The peeps even remind me of my children’s personalities. The cards make me smile every time I look at them. And the notepad is being used for my Christmas shopping lists! You are going to want to enter this giveaway!