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Fool Proof Bread Machine Bread: Only 5 Ingredients!

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I have always been a fan of my bread machine, but I have never been able to get consistent results.  Some loaves of bread are beautiful, crispy on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside and others are like bread bricks.  For some reason, some don't rise well and end up dense and heavy and not very good. 

I have always followed the instructions on my bread machine manual (keep the wet ingredients away from the yeast), and I fear it has led me down the wrong path. Although it flies in the face of what everyone says you are "supposed to do" I stumbled upon this 'no fail' methodology and now, dozens of loaves later, I am confident this is the ONLY way to use my bread machine. 

I am including the standard 5 Ingredient White Bread recipe, but I have altered this method to make other recipes (such as this Hawaiian Sweet Bread) and they have ALL come out great.  

Look at these nooks and crannies.. Perfectly risen, light and fluffy.  Just like bread from the bakery! 

5 Ingredient White Bread
To the bottom of your bread machine add:
1 cup warm water (or whatever your liquid you are using.  "Warm" means approximately 110 degrees  or 'luke warm')
2 Tbsp Sugar (or whatever sugar source your recipe uses.. honey, brown sugar etc)
1 (0.25 oz) pack Rapid Rise/Bread Machine yeast (2 1/4 tsp from the jar)

Allow the yeast to dissolve and foam for about 10 minutes and then add: 
1/4 cup Oil
3 cups Bread Flour (or All Purpose)
1 tsp. Salt

Start your machine (I use either the Basic or White setting but if you are making a sweet bread you can also you alternative settings) and walk away. 

There is nothing like warm bread straight out of the machine.. Enjoy! 

Little Girl's Blue Flower Garden Bedroom


When my second daughter was born (in my 2009 pre-blogging days, before we owned the MoneyPit 1.0) we decided to convert our home office into my older daughter's bedroom.   We had previously painted the room "Beacon Gray" by Benjamin Moore and didn't want to paint again.  So what do you do to turn a baby blue room "girly"?  

Make it into a flower garden. 

We purchased a cute butterfly and flower wrought iron bed and added a trundle underneath.  Some inexpensive bedding and window treatments from Home Goods, a homemade bed skirt and a clearance Pottery Barn throw rug brought the theme together.

Lastly I added a faux garden gate along one wall.  I painted and used large rubber stamps to create the 'meadow.'

Then I painted and added 1 inch wide trim boards to the wall with small nails. Because I wanted to make this easily removable and not leave much wall damage, I hot glued the fence pickets onto the trim boards.  The fence pickets were actually just survey stakes I primed and painted.  You can get dozens of stakes for less than $10 which is a great deal vs. cutting points on each one yourself.

A quick and easy fix to the blue paint dilemma.   

If you liked this post you can also check out the girls' rooms in the Money Pit 1.0  and Money Pit 2.0 (where they finally get a pink room they always wanted!)  




Please excuse the photo quality and lack and step by step pictures.  This post is a little blast from the past.  My computer is currently at the genius bar getting repaired after one of my darling children tried to play a DVD unsuccessfully.   So I had to drag out my old computer and as I was perusing my old photo library I stumbled upon these old pictures and thought I would share them. 

Cocoa and Cookies Party (Hot Chocolate Toppings Bar)

Having a winter birthday is always tough, since you are in the midst of the other big holidays.  So this year, instead of fighting it, we rolled with the winter theme and celebrated E's 7th birthday with a Cocoa and Cookies party.
 
The highlight of the party was the "Hot Chocolate Toppings Bar."  
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I made a giant batch of hot cocoa in the crock pot and then let the kids add whatever they wanted to it.  The toppings included different types of marshmallows, chocolate chips, sprinkles, candy canes, and three flavors of whipped cream.
 
 

We also had a couple of homemade special treats on the table.  

One was marshmallow snowmen.

They are just three marshmallows on a skewer with a Hershey Kiss hat (we used pumpkin spice kisses), mini m and m buttons and a fruit roll up scarf.  Everything was attached (and the faces were drawn on) using melted chocolate chips.
 
We also had chocolate covered spoons for stirring. 

We made a lot of extras of these (I will post our quick and easy tutorial later this week) so we could also use them as the party favor. 

I got a bunch of insulated tumblers at the dollar store and tied 3 chocolate spoons to each one.  A perfect take home reminder of the "Cocoa" theme.

The second part of the party was cookie decorating.  I made each child sugar cookies shaped like a christmas tree and gingerbread boy and girl.  I then set out all sorts of toppings (sprinkles, colored sugars, candies etc) and made up tubes of frosting they could use.  

There were quite some little cookie artists in our midst.

I boxed up the cookies for each child to bring home along with their cup and spoon (since consumption of the cookies along with their tricked out hot chocolate would have led to sugar shock!)

And lest we forget, there was still cake and ice cream (this is a birthday party after all!)
Not a bad way to spend your 7th birthday.. especially if you are a sweet tooth!

Sharing at some of these great parties.

Inexpensive Flower Seeds Valentines

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I know I already posted another version of the "I love watching our friendship grow" valentine earlier this month, but I realize that not everyone wants to spend a dollar per valentine.  So this alternate version gives you the same CANDY-FREE sentiment but for about 1/5 the price. 

All you need is a pack of seeds (I got mine for 20c/each at Wal-Mart, and I also saw them at the dollar store for the same price) and some card stock. 
 

 I eyeballed the shapes, cutting a rectangle and a trapezoid just slightly wider than the seed pack.

I had a Happy Valentine's Day stamp in my craft supplies, but you could write it by hand (or print it along with your personalized message.)

I glued everything together with a glue stick: 
Now I have a confession.
 
I only tied the heart-shaped tag onto mine because I had leftover tags from the other version of this valentine...
  
...and I had already punched holes in them (shhhh.. I never said I wasn't lazy frugal!)

If I was going to do it again I would just glue the heart onto the Valentine, maybe even sticking out of the pot next to the seeds. 
 
It was a really easy, cost-effective project..  15 valentines for $3!  Cheaper (and a lot cuter) than store-bought!

Not a flower seed fan? 
 Check out my 10 most popular school Valentines! 
Top 10 School Valentine Ideas

100 FREE Printable School Valentines

How to Stain Oak Cabinetry (Tutorial)

 Did you know that if you order cabinets from a cabinet company in a specific finish, they will often provide the EXACT SAME STAIN they used so that you can match your existing cabinetry or fill pieces etc?
 
This is what I did to match my current cabinets I couldn't afford to replace in my bathroom renovation, to the new corner cabinet I had custom ordered.

Therefore I wanted to share a quick tutorial on how I stained my bathroom cabinets.  I have seen a lot of people on Pinterest claim you can't stain cabinets with anything other than certain brands of stain, or with gel stain or some other version.. and that isn't really true.  I am sure those other techniques work too, but I didn't have the option of using any other stain for this project.  

Don't be afraid to give it a shot using regular old liquid wood stain.. it will work JUST FINE. (I used regular wood stain on my stair bannisters and it has held up wonderfully for a for more than a year. I wouldn't even try to do handrails with gel stain!)

The technique I used to stain these cabinets (with the house-brand of stain from Thomasville) is the same way I did the kitchen island and the stair bannisters.

First up, remove the doors and sand them.  You want to get the finish off and then do a final sanding with a pretty high grit (200) sandpaper for a nice finish.  This process is SO EASY even a 3 year old can do it.  She was cracking up at how the palm sander vibrated her arms:

Then you want to wipe down the cabinet to get all the dust off.  Once again (just like when I paint cabinets) I used my trusty Lysol/Clorox wipes.  I don't use TSP or anything else.. just regular old disinfecting wipes. 

 It usually takes 1 wipe/cabinet, and again.. a 3 year old can do it:

Don't forget to sand the boxes as well:

I then applied the stain.  You can use a foam brush, regular brush or cloth.  I like to use a regular brush myself, but that is just personal opinion.  Brush strokes don't matter so I use a cheapy dollar store one so I don't have to deal with washing it.  (This wood stain was oil based so I would have to use mineral spirits for clean up.)
 

Wipe off any excess with a soft cloth (follow the specific instructions on your brand of stain.  Mine said to wait 2 minutes before wiping it down).  You don't want the surface overly saturated or it won't dry. I only needed one coat with this type/color of stain.  It was really really dark. 
 

You can see the wood grain still shows through.  This is a personal taste thing.  I don't mind it.  Especially with the really dark color it isn't really in your face.
 

If you need the color darker you may have to repeat a couple coats of stain.  Once you get the look you like, you can apply a coat or two of polyurethane to protect the finish.  I like to reassemble the cabinets before the poly step so that I can leave the doors/drawers ajar to dry both sides at the same time. I also set up a fan in the bathroom to circulate the air while the poly dries:
  

The last step is to add hardware (you could pre-drill the holes before staining the cabinets if you prefer, but I like to put the hardware on the cabinets once they are reassembled):


And there you have it.  The stain was about $40.  I had the polyurathane, sandpaper and hardware already, but if you were doing this project from scratch the entire cost would still be under $75.

That is a lot of bang for your buck.



Linking up here

"I Love Watching Our Friendship Grow" Valentines

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We try to do something special for school Valentines every year, at least for now while my kids are still young and enjoy doing it.    Last year we made our own crayons which was fun, and so this year we thought we would try another creative idea.

 When I saw these cute little "Grow Your Own" kits at the Target dollar spot, I knew I could use them:
 

They had 3 versions. Strawberries, Forget-Me-Nots and Poppies.  Each little box contained a seed packet, a mini-pot and a small soil pellet:

We wanted to dress up the plain box, so I also bought some favor bags ($1.99 for 20) at Target to put the boxes in:

I printed tags which read "I love watching our friendship GROW!" and used my heart shaped hole punch to make labels:

Because it is a school requirement that each child sign his/her name, I had my 7-year old sign her name on the back, and then we used a hole punch to turn the hearts into tags:

Using leftover Christmas curling ribbon, we attached the tags to each little baggie:

And there you have it.. the finished product:

We had to repeat the process about 26 times:

 An adorable little "Grow Your Own" Valentine for about $1.10/each:

Not a flower fan? 
 Check out my 10 most popular school Valentines! 
Top 10 School Valentine Ideas

100 FREE Printable School Valentines

 
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