Happy Celiac Awareness Month!!

That’s right people…May is Celiac Awareness Month!

 

Even with all of the information out there, and more & more safe foods available everyday, some people still don’t understand what’s going on inside their bodies.  Let’s spread the word that Celiac is not just a “fad diet”.  Let’s spread the word that an estimated 1 in 133 Americans have Celiac, but 83% of them are undiagnosed.  Let’s spread the word that there is currently no cure, but a gluten free diet allows us to live symptom free.

 

If you are looking for some information on Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance, be sure to check out the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) website.  They have tons of great resources, and are currently offering an amazing toolkit for Awareness Month.  It’s a free download, just CLICK HERE!

 

celiac banner heroes within us

 

If you would like to see some of the recipes and info we have posted before about Celiac Disease and eating gluten free, CLICK HERE!!

 

Have a wonderful gluten free month everyone!

Lizz

 

Skylarism – Home Birth

The other day I showed Skylar a picture of a friend’s newborn baby.  I told her she had just had the baby that day, and this was her very first picture.  I expected something like “oh, she’s so cute”, but instead I got a classic Skylarism…

Skylar: “Did she have the baby at home?”

Me: “No, I think she had the baby at the hospital.”

Skylar: “Oh, because sometimes babies are homemade.”

Me: (Totally silent, trying not to smile or laugh at her terminology)

Skylar: “Right?”

Me: ” Yes, you are right.  Sometimes people like to have their babies at home.”

This, of course lead into a discussion about home births vs. hospital births, concluding with Skylar deciding she would probably rather not have homemade babies, because it hurts and it would be smart to be at the hospital.  I silently hoped we wouldn’t need to have this conversation again for at least another 15 years.

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Have any of your kids given you their opinion on childbirth or pregnancy?  I love hearing these type of topics from a child’s point of view.

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Lizz

Homemade Apple Butter – Part 3 – Canning

And we are (finally after some technical issues) back for the last segment of our 3 part series…canning that delicious apple butter!!

jar display

 

If you have never canned anything before, let me tell you, it’s easier than it looks.  (Even though this post is going to be pretty long…I think it takes longer to explain than to do)  There’s a few things you really need to know going into this.  First, you’re going to need some stuff.  And I’m not just talkin’ jars (but, yeah you need those too). There’s all sorts of accessories for the canning process.  Some necessary, some convenient.  You can go about getting this stuff in 2 ways: #1 Buy some stuff -or- #2 makeshift some stuff.  Here’s what I mean…

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#1 Buy some stuff

You could purchase a complete set.  Something like this…

big canning set

(source)

A pot, a rack, a jar lifter, a funnel, a lid lifter, and some other things that I’m not even sure what they are.

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#2 Makeshift Some Stuff

Who needs a rack when you can make this?!

DIY rack

I made this out of leftover jar rings and twisty ties. So simple.  Some sort of rack is a must, so the glass jars don’t bang into each other and break when being boiled, and this is a great solution (and free if you have extra rings!)

You need a way to get the jars and lids out of boiling water, and you can get by with wrapping a few rubber bands around each side of a set of tongs, making them non-slip.  Then use that to lift the jars out, or pick up the jar lids.

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-OR- #3 (new option!) Do what I did, and use a combination of purchased and makeshift items.

I bought this set from Sur la Table (the most dangerously delightful kitchen store ever!) for $20

small canning set

(source)

I chose this one mainly because it had the items I needed.  I already had a large pot and I made that nifty rack, so I really needed the jar lifter (I found the tongs method to be a little tough with heavy full jars) and the special wide mouth funnel (made things a lot less messy).  The bonus was the magnetic wand for picking up the jar lids out of boiling water.  It is a necessity? No. Is it super convenient? Yes!

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Okay, now that we have stuff…let’s get to the canning!!

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It’s important to know that the reason for canning (and the reason that these foods can be in a pantry instead of in the fridge) is that, when done properly, the process kills off any bacteria that might spoil the food.  This means sterility is a big deal here.  So first things first, you need to clean all of your jars and sterilize them.  If you have a dishwasher, this is as simple as pushing go.  I don’t have a dishwasher (sob!) so I’ll give you the full stove top directions:

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Fill your large pot with water, and get it boiling.  While waiting, gather everything you need, including your washed jars and lids.  I always prepare more jars than I think I will need, just incase.  This time, I used a combination of 8oz and 4 oz jars, so I would have some small ones to share with friends and family.

Whole setup

Once boiling, drop your rack into the bottom of the pot, and submerge the jars.

boil jars

Boil the jars for at least 10 minutes to sterilize them.

While the jars are boiling, get a small pot of water to a boil, and drop in the flat metal lids (not the rings).  These should boil for about 5 minutes.  This will both sterilize them, and soften the sealing compound, which is crucial for a good seal.

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Once everything is hot and sterilized, it’s time to fill the jars.

Using the jar lifter, pull out one of the jars and empty any water.

lift jar

Set it on a safe surface (I use a cork hotplate), and put the funnel on top.  Spoon the hot apple butter into the funnel. (Note: it is important that whatever you are canning is hot when added to the jars.  Hot glass can crack when exposed to cold.  Danger!) Leave about 1/4 inch at the top of the jar.  The guides on the funnel will help here.  Try to remove any air bubbles by gently tapping the jar on the corkboard, or use a knife and slowly stir.

funnel

Wipe off the top of the jar, incase there is any spillage (which could ruin the seal).  Then using the lid wand, grab one of the lids out of the boiling water.

lift lids

Place the lid on top of the jar (reposition if needed), and screw on the ring.  The jar will be very hot, so use a towel or oven mitts to protect your hands.  Once securely screwed back together, return the jar to the large pot of boiling water.  Continue this process with as many jars as you can fill.  Boil the filled jars for 10-15 minutes. If there is not enough apple butter to completely fill your last jar, you can simply close it up and refrigerate that one without boiling it.

Once the jars have been boiled, remove them all and set aside to cool completely.  This could take several hours, so I leave mine to sit overnight.

jars done

You will at some point hear a popping noise coming from each jar.  This is a good GREAT thing!  That means you did everything right, and your seals have taken properly.  Once your jars have cooled completely, check to make sure that you cannot push down the button on the top of the lid.  I also remove the ring and give the lid a gentle tug.  It shouldn’t budge.  I also wipe off any access moisture from under the ring, so nothing rusts, then replace them.

The last thing I do is give each jar a good wiping down (mine always seem to have a white powdery film on them, from hard water), then use a sharpie to label the lid with the item in the jar, and the date (the lids are one time use anyway).  Then I tuck them away in the pantry.

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Doesn’t the apple butter look so at home next to my strawberry jam?

jars on shelf

That’s it!  Now you can share (or not) your lovely homemade apple butter with others.  Honestly, mine is already gone, so I’ll have to make another batch soon!

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If you would like to see the other steps we made towards making and canning the apple butter check out the first two posts:

Homemade Apple Butter Part 1 – Applesauce

Homemade Apple Butter Part 2 – Making Apple Butter

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I would love to know what is everyone’s favorite thing to can?  I have done strawberry jam and apple butter now, so what should I try next?!

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Happy Canning!!

Lizz

Gluten Free Friday – Homemade Apple Butter – Part 2

Welcome back, and Happy Gluten Free Friday!!

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Now that we are all experts in making our own applesauce (See part 1 here), it’s time to make our apple butter!  Yahoo!  And, we’re going to do it in a crock pot!  Double Yahoo! This process is very simple, but be prepared for a looooong cooking time.  If you are patient though, this is what you could be eating for breakfast tomorrow…

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apple butter on toast 2

(on your fav GF bread of course!!) Helllloooooo Yummyness!!

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Let’s get this party started…

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Ingredients: (based on the size of my personal crockpot)

Non-ingredient items needed:

  • Crockpot
  • Towel
  • chopsticks, or other similarly shaped item
  • immersion blender (optional)
  • plate
  • a ton of time

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This recipe is very customizable.  Most of the recipes I saw called for cloves either in place of or in addition to the allspice.  I didn’t have any on hand so I omitted it and it tastes fine.  Some people add sugar, but my applesauce was so naturally sweet I didn’t need any.  You can adjust the spices to taste, or to the size of your crockpot.

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First things first….find a small person (preferably in an oversized shirt) to help you out.  Put your applesauce into a large bowl, and have your mini-helper add in the spices.

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measure stuff 2

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Once thoroughly mixed and taste approved, teach your mini-helper how to use an immersion blender.  Supervise closely to prevent any additions of fingers or hair.  Or new wall decorations, splat! (This step is optional, and will just get rid of any large lumps in the applesauce)

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blend stuff 2

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Now, fill your crockpot with as much applesauce as you can.  Set the crock pot on a towel covering your counter and wall (I will explain why in a moment).  Lay the chopsticks across the top of the crockpot, and then lay the lid on top of the chopsticks.  Like so….

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cook stuff 2

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Why set things up like this?  Well, we want to cook down the applesauce, and essentially pull out as much moisture as we can.  Keeping the lid propped open allows the steam to escape.  However, anyone who has ever cooked pasta sauce on a stove top understands the concept of little sauce volcanoes.  There will be some splattering, so covering your workspace is important.

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Allow this to cook on low for 10-12 hours.  You shouldn’t need to stir it much, as the slow cooking process will avoid burning.  TIP** I cooked mine overnight.  I set the whole thing up at about 11:00pm, went to bed, and woke up to a very lovely smell in the air.  Once you get to the 10/12 hour mark, it’s time to do a little recon.  Give it a taste (Carefully! it’s hot!) adjust the spices if needed, and evaluate it’s done-ness.  Done-ness is a negotiable term, as it’s really up to you how thick you want your apple butter to be.  I like mine pretty thick.  Now I’m not sure what exactly went on with my batch (too much moisture, crockpot doesn’t work well, should have cooked it on high, ect) but my batch cooked for 22 hours before I was happy with it. (okay, I left the house for a while, but still it was taking FOREVER!!).  In the end, you should have something like this…

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stuff is done 2

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Your apple butter should cook down by about half, and turn a nice deep brown color.  If you are stirring once in a while, you probably won’t have the stuff stuck to the sides like mine.  I didn’t scrape them in, incase that part was too done.

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The last step is to check the consistency.  There’s 2 quick tests you can do.  Grab a plate (paper is fine), and drop a dollup of apple butter in the center.  Let it sit for about 30 seconds.  If it doesn’t change, you’re good.  If a ring of liquid appears around the dollup, you probably need to cook it a little longer.

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dollup 2

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Then take the plate, and tip it upside down over the crockpot.  Your apple butter should stay stuck to the plate.  This butter should be thick but spreadable.

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upsidedown check 2

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And that’s it!!  Now you can either put this into a container and store it in the fridge, or if you think you would like to store it in your pantry, you might want to consider canning it.  If you would like to know how to can your apple butter, stop back here for Part 3 of our apple butter series, and I will go through the whole canning process.  Until then….Enjoy!!

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I would love to know how you use apple butter, other than as a spread on toast.  Leave a comment below!!

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Lizz

Homemade Apple Butter – Part 1 – Applesauce

 

So while I was on my blogging break, I tried a few new things.  One of the biggest things I attempted was canning.  This is a very new thing for me, as we didn’t do this growing up and I don’t really know anyone that does it (as far as I know!).  I’ve seen so much about it online, and my sister tried it too, so I thought why not?

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Over the summer we went strawberry picking, so it seemed natural to make strawberry jam (my fav!).  It turned out beautifully, and now I have enough to last me for the whole year!  I’m now hooked.

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Okay, so why am I going on about canning and strawberry jam on a post for apple butter?  Well, I chose apple butter as my second canning project.  Since I didn’t post the jam yet (I plan to over the summer when it makes more sense for in season berries), I want to post my canning procedure now.  I was able to tweak my procedure a bit the second time around, so this is better timing anyway.  Everyone with me still? Great!

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So this apple butter post will be broken up into 3 parts:

Part 1: Making Applesauce

Part 2: Turning Applesauce into Apple Butter Using a Crock Pot

Part 3: Canning the Apple Butter

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And here we begin Part 1 — Making Homemade Applesauce

applesauce

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I have always loved apple butter, so imagine my surprise when I learned that in order to make this delicious spread you have to start with applesauce.  Huh.  While you certainly can buy some applesauce from the store to make your apple butter, I feel that defeats the whole purpose here.  Why not just buy the apple butter?  So step 1 is to make applesauce.  We went all out and started by going apple picking…

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apples

So. Many. Apples.

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This year’s crop was amazing and bountiful, so we ended up with a ton of huge ripe apples.  We ate as many as we could until my favorites, Cortland, started to go soft. Now it’s time for cooking.

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One thing to note about applesauce is that it’s best when you use several different varieties of apple.  Some people have a preference of which ones to use, but there’s really not a “right” combo. (although I would probably stay away from sour apples, like granny smith, since that flavor might not translate well) Since we had gobs of apples, we used what we had: Cortland, Jonagold, Gala, and Melrose.

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At this point, we come to a crossroad in our preparation.  The question now is: skin on or skin off?  The answer is: Do you have a food mill or sieve? I realize that’s answering a question with a question, but it’s a necessary evil.  A food mill (pictured below) or sieve are tools used to separate the skins after the apples have been cooked.

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food mill

(food mill)

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If you have one of these, cut and core your apples but leave the skin on.  There are tannins in the skin that will help with flavor and texture.  If you do not have one of these, fear not!  Just cut, core, and peel your apples.  They will cook just fine, and you can skip the milling step.  (BTW…Did you know that apple seeds have arsenic in them?! WHAT?!  Apparently you would have to bite open tons of them to have any effect, but still…make sure there’s no seeds left!)

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cook apples

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Whichever way you choose, fill a large pot with as many apple slices as you can.  Fill the bottom of the pan with about an inch of water or apple juice.  Cover, and heat until the apples are very soft.  This should take about 20 minutes.  You shouldn’t need to add any more liquid, as the apples will start to release their own juices.  Once cooked throughly, use a potato masher to smoosh the apples.

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mash apples

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If you had cut the skins off of your apples, you can simple drain out any access liquid (This is natural apple juice, drink it!).  If you like a thick chunky apple sauce, you’re done!  If you want it a little smoother, use an immersion blender to get the texture you desire.  At this point you should taste your applesauce, if you haven’t already.  If you feel it needs some sweetening you can add sugar to taste, but really you probably won’t need it.  Can or refrigerate your apple sauce. (see below if you are planning to take the next step to apple butter)

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If you left the skins on, you will need to run this all through your food mill.  Below is the setup I used.  Working from right to left (which did feel a little backwards, but it’s how the new kitchen is set up!), I scooped the apples out of the pot and into the food mill, which I placed over a container to catch the draining apple juice.  Once drained, I held the food mill over a large bowl, and turned the crank to separate the skins from the applesauce.  I learned that there is a right and wrong way to turn the crank.  After several turns (and thinking the thing was broken), I went the other way, and it worked like magic.

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process

(my assembly line)

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This process of separating the skins took quite a while, mostly because of draining the liquid out.  I simply watched TV shows during this part, and would come back during the commercials to mill the applesauce, and then set up the draining again.  I’m hoping someone can give me some tips on making that part a little faster… (Maybe drain before mashing?)

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Once all of the applesauce has been milled, give it a taste.  If it’s not sweet enough for you, add some sugar to taste.  Your applesauce is not done!  There’s a few options here:

1) If you are just going to use this as apple sauce, you can keep it plain, or add some cinnamon, or melt some red hot candies into it for pink applesauce, or do whatever tastes good to you.  Then you should either can or refrigerate it.

2) If you are going to make apple butter (as we will!), measure out exactly how much you will need (in our case, however much will fit into your crockpot) and keep that plain.  You can treat any leftover as regular applesauce. (I measured out what I needed for the apple butter, put it in a separate container, and refrigerated it, as I planned to make my apple butter a few days later)

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And that’s it!  Hand picked apples turned into delicious, natural, no preservative, no sugar (maybe) added applesauce!

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and done

It’s so pretty!

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Join us again here soon for Part 2 of our Apple Butter adventure, where we turn this amazing applesauce into the delicious spiced spread we’re all looking forward to!

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Have you ever made your own applesauce before?  Any tips, tricks, or different methods you would like to share?  We’d love to hear it in the comments below!

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Lizz

Gluten Free Friday – It Is Time…

Yes, oh yes. The time has finally come.  After almost two and a half years of gluten free cooking and baking for the kiddo.  After so many complaints.  After finally getting my own diagnosis.  After 9 months of coming to terms with my diagnosis.  It’s finally time to put on my big girl panties………..and make a gluten free flour mix.

AAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Some of you might be a little shocked that I haven’t even attempted this yet, but it’s true.  I’ve been using a lot of packaged mixes, and they are hit or miss.  And expensive.  I’m also finally starting to get sick myself, so the time is near for a full fledged diet change.  This cannot happen if I can’t find me a good flour to use.

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The catalyst for this decision (and the reason I’m posting before I actually do something) came when I actually found some flours on awesome sale.  Usually every time I think I’m going to try this I look up the prices for the million different flours I will need, cry a little inside, then change my mind.  Today must be my lucky day though ’cause after reading this post from Hope’s Kitchen I not only got a decent sounding flour mix recipe and an amazing recipe for apple fritters, it lead me to an online grocer, Netgrocer.com.  There I found a pretty great sale on Bob’s Red Mill products:

Millet Flour — $.08/oz — 23oz bag = $1.93

Sweet White Sorghum Flour — $.10/oz — 22oz bag = $2.25

Tapioca Flour — $.11/oz — 20oz bag = $2.13

Potato Flour — $.13/oz — 24oz – $3.13

(They didn’t have arrowroot. Boo)

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All for a total of $9.34!!  So I got 2 of everything. $18.68!! Bam, what?!

The however, of course, is that because this is an online purchase you’ve got to pay shipping.  There’s a whole chart based on where you live and the total of your bill.  Since my total isn’t very high, the shipping is $9.99, bringing my grand total to $28.67.   Even with shipping, I think that sounds pretty darn reasonable.

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So for now I will search around for that arrowroot I need and wait for my flours to come in.  I will then have to figure out something fun to make using my new flour mix.  Cross your fingers for me!

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So, has anyone got a great GF flour mix?  I’m looking for something all purpose that I can easily use to sub into regular recipes.

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Happy Gluten Free Friday, y’all!!

Lizz

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P.S.  I have no idea how long these sale prices are going to be available, so if you’re interested, I say go for it now!!

For a Hairy Situation… Zip It!

I’m just going to go ahead and warn you now… there’s some gross stuff going on in this post.  I’m just sayin’ you might want to put down your bagel.  Consider yourself warned…

 

If your household is anything like mine, you have a situation.  A hair situation.  A hair everywhere you look situation.  This is just what happens with long hair like mine and Skylar’s.  It’s not just long, but it’s also plentiful.  This crazy thick mane I’ve got, while nice for hairstyling, is a beast for clean up.  And I mean literal beasts that form in my drain.  Hairy slimy creatures that nobody likes to clean up.  Nobody.

So when the day comes that you’re taking a shower and realize that you’re suddenly standing in ankle deep water, you shutter at the thought of what you know you must do: clean the drain.

Thankfully, this is a common problem and someone has already come up with a solution.  Check out this cool little tool I found at my local hardware store:

package

This handy little piece of plastic, a Zip-It, was a whopping $2.48, and worth every penny.  When you take it out of the packaging, it looks like this:

tool

Simple, and unassuming.  There’s a little hole on the top so you can pull it out of the drain, and a pointy end to stick into the drain.  See those little thorn looking spikes?  Those are important.  And sharp.

So you just push the stick into your drain as far as you can (mine only went in a few inches), and then pull it back out.  What comes out with the stick is amazing.  And gross.  Put down your bagel now…

hair clump 1

OH. MY. GOD!!!

This thing worked like a boss, it was crazy easy, and no chemicals were needed.  They say not to try to remove the hair from the stick, and if I was able to get mine further down the drain I would have never been able to (those spikes are like crazy glue!!).  I was, however, able to detach my hair clump for gross photographic purposes…

hair clump 2

EEEEEWWWWWWWW!!! EEWW!! EEEEWWWW!!!!! EEEWWWWEEWEEEWWWWW!!!!

The second best thing about this little magical cleaning stick is that it’s a one time use disposable.  You just pull that nasty out, and throw the whole thing away.  You don’t have to touch any of that gross hair (half of which probably belongs to the former residents)

Now my shower is working and draining like a charm.  I told you it was worth the $2.48.

So tell me, have you used this before? Or do you have some other suggestion for easy cleaning of disgusting things?  Leave a comment!  I’d love to hear from you!

Lizz

P.S.  You can pick up your bagel again.

P.P.S.  I’m not getting anything from Zip-It for sharing this with you.  It’s just something I used and loved and wanted to share.

Welcome HLN Weekend Express Viewers!

I would like to give a great big bright cheery HELLO to everyone that saw us on Weekend Express and decided to pop on over to our little corner of the internet.  I’m so glad you’re here!!

If I had to guess, you’re probably here to get another look at our Mummy Pumpkin that was featured on the show.

Mummy Pumpkin Complete

He’s soooo cute, right?! To make your lives simple, you can **CLICK HERE** to head on over to that post for directions on making this quick (seriously) and easy (super seriously) Halloween decoration.  If you are interested in any of the other Halloween-y stuff we’ve done, you can **CLICK HERE**.  If you just want to take a look around, please feel free to do so.  Mi casa es su casa.  Or, Mi website-of-delightfulness es su website-of-delightfulness.

Well, I’m glad you stopped by, and I hope you stay a while.  If you want to keep coming back, you should sign up on the home page to get our posts by email.  That way you don’t miss out on all the fun things we have coming up!

Hope to see you back soon!

 

Lizz

 

Mummy Pumpkin Outside

We’ve Been Featured on HLNTV.com!!!

I’m SO EXCITED to share with all you that one of our crafts has been featured on HLNTV.com!! Yeah!!

HLN (Headline News, a sister network to CNN) has been challenging its anchors to create some Halloween crafts they found on Pinterest.  Check out what they found on our site…

Mummy Pumpkin Complete

It’s the Mummy Pumpkin!!

This project was so quick and easy to make, and I can’t wait to watch one of the anchors recreate it on HLN’s Weekend Express this Saturday!

Hopefully these cuties will grace many doorsteps this Halloween.

Make sure you check out all of the other fun crafts over at HLNTV.com!

Mummy Pumpkin Outside

So tell me… what do you think of our Mummy Pumpkin?  Would you attempt it?  I’m “dying” to know!

Lizz

Black Rose Skull Wreath

Halloween may still be a few weeks away, but there’s no reason we can’t start our creepy crawly decorating now, right?

I made this wreath for our door last year, but since I was taking a little bloggin’ break I haven’t posted it yet.  Let me tell you, not only is the one of my favorite wreaths so far, it was incredibly easy to make.  So let’s get to it!

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(Pardon my year old shadowy photos…)

 

First, you will need to raid your local craft store for goodies.  I was able to find bunches of black roses, purple glitter skulls, and glitter spiders all on clearance.  I splurged on a Styrofoam floral wreath (by splurged, I mean I used a Michael’s coupon of course).  Add a hot glue gun to the mix, and you’ve got all of your items!

I started with the placement of the large skull, as this was clearly the focal point of the wreath.  Since the wreath was Styrofoam, all I had to do was poke the stick the skull was attached to into the wreath.  Once I had that in place, I cut the flowers off of the bunch (leaving as long of a stem as possible) and poked them in as well.  If I found that the stem was too long and came out the other side of the wreath, I just trimmed the stem a bit.  The spiders were also on stems, so they were placed the same way.  Easy Peasy.  I hot glued a hidden loop of string in the back for hanging.  I have a window on my front door, so a suction cup with a hook on it works great for hanging wreaths without a giant bow on the top.

If I had wanted to re-use the wreath with new items, I could stop there.  However, this wreath will now be gracing a friend’s door for Halloween, so I went back with my glue gun to secure each piece.  I would recommend putting the whole thing together before doing any gluing in this case, since I found that some floral adjustments were needed when I stepped back for a good look.

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Love this wreath?  Then !!

So there you go.  This baby took hardly any time to throw together, and I love how it’s scary without being scary.  Make sure you come back to check out this year’s wreath which I will be posting soon!  And if you need more inspiration, feel free to check out our Spider Web Wreath from 2 Halloweens ago, which comes with the bonus post of how to make an interchangeable yarn wreath.  Oh yes…

spider web wreath
Love Me? Pin Me!

Have you made a great Halloween wreath you would like to share?  I would love for your to link to it, or describe it, in a comment below!

Happy Wreathing!

Lizz