Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Healthy Homeade Recipe for Baking Powder

Do you ever run out of baking powder at the worst times? Of course, I never realize it until after I have my stomach all primed for some goodie and have started to assemble the ingredients. I suddenly realize that I need 2 Tablespoons of the stuff and my container is sorely lacking! Well friends, don't send your kids to the neighbors. You can make it yourself from ingredients already in your pantry. Also, baking powder does go bad. If you don't bake a lot, you are better off making it yourself so it is always fresh! This recipe is also aluminum free unlike most commercial brands!

Ingredients for 1 Tbl. baking powder:1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon corn starch (optional-if you are going to make a batch and store it)

Mix the baking soda and cream of tartar together until well combined. Use immediately.

Making a batch to store? Add a teaspoon of corn starch to the mixture, and stir. This will absorb any moisture from the air, and prevent the baking powder from reacting before you need it. Store in an air-tight container.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

More Outdated Stuff Made New with Spray Paint!

OK, so I'm going to totally blame/thank my friend Melissa! I've gone crazy with the Oiled Bronze spray paint around here! I've done all the door knobs in the house. What a difference! I even did the front door hardware which was just plain awful before. As Melissa pointed out the other day, I bought two cans and spent less than $20 total to update all of my door hardware! I couldn't have replaced even one doorknob for that amount! She also pointed out that if I would ever need a quick touchup, I could spray a small amount in a paper plate and touch it up with an artists paint brush without having to remove the doorknob again.

Now a few of my master bath accessories needed to be changed (or so I thought). Years ago I spent a tidy sum at a high end store on these beautiful glass containers for my bathroom. I searched for something with a glass bottom and I had a hard time finding them. At the time, the price for these containers was hard to swallow. But now, years later, I'm glad I splurged. They were excellent quality and classic pattern. In the end, worth it. Now, the silver color wasn't right for my bathroom anymore since we changed to oiled bronze fixtures throughout. Believe me, I winced when I took sandpaper to the expensive top. Now, they look brand new and it cost me practically nothing!

My soap dispenser metal was also a shiny silver. Now, it blends well with the rest of my oiled bronze accessories. Oh,what's next?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

More Kroger - The Party's Over Couponers

This is a follow-up to my last article on Kroger's coupon policy. Kroger is discontinuting its double and triple coupon policy. Oh yeah, no more stacking either. Apparently, our friendly manager got wind of the changes and decided to implement them early. As you try to hurry up and use your coupons before the implementation of the new policy, understand that the manager of the store can put the kabosh on your using coupons if he feels like it. Have a nice day! :)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

More Spring Garden

Herb Garden Lattices

Oh, we have been having fun this week! My husband and I went on a hunt for sticks at a local park. "Sticks?" you say. After watching Lark Rise to Candleford last week, I noticed some very cute stick lattices that the townsfolk of Lark Rise used in their gardens. What a great solution for my vining plants to grow on! My boys obliged and built one lattice for the Pioneer Garden and another one for the herb garden right off my patio. Then I built a top part for the herb garden lattice and my husband hung it from the fence to create a very tall lattice for everything to grow up on. With a small garden, using vertical spaces is important!

Patio Tomato in pot

My husband and I also picked up some pine needles at the park. I recently learned to make some "tea" with the pine needles by steeping them in water in a bucket outside and pouring the acidic water over the tomatoes and parsley. I also worked some needles into the soil around my tomato plants. I put a little on top for decoration (and a cute pine cone that got raked up). I'm interested to see what a difference it will make this year.

Cabbage in the Pioneer Garden

Then today we all went to an adorable gardening place called "Enchanted Gardens". I was with men so we went in, got what we needed, and immediately left. That's the way it goes with men and shopping. They see no point in taking the scenic route! I'll take a slower, more leisurely tour when I am with some women friends. Well, we picked up three cabbages and some pepper plants that will spend the night in my garden bed tonight.

starter plants

All the plants I started from seed were ready to be planted this week. Cucumbers, squash and pole beans, oh my! How I love fresh green beans from the garden! Hate squash? Bet I can make you love it! We slice it and cook it with a little olive oil, salt and pepper in a black cast iron pan right on the grill outside. My boys also love it when it is sliced, dipped in beaten egg and then in flour that has a little Tony Chachere's seasoning in it. Fry in peanut oil and watch them disappear! The lettuce, spinich and carrots are all up and growing!

Check out my new pest deterrents. Rubber snakes and old CD's! I found some "poisonous" snakes at our local discount store for $1.00. The CD's were free!

Carrot Patch in the Pioneer Garden - nothing to look at right now!

Baby Cucumbers and Squash in the Pioneer Garden

Friday, March 11, 2011

Kroger's Manager could spoil the whole party

UPDATE: See my latest article on Kroger discontinuing it's double and triple coupons and discontinuing stacking!

Recently I had an interesting experience at our local Kroger store. While I am a careful shopper and use my coupons when I can, I can't claim to be any sort of "coupon queen". I have always appreciated Kroger's coupon policy of doubling and tripling coupons and allowing stacking of coupons (using a manufacturers coupon at the same time as a store coupon for an item). Because of their good policy, I have always checked their flyers carefully for items that I can get a good deal on with a coupon I currently have. A competitor opened up a big grocery store near my home and Kroger sent some very generous coupons to my home to entice me to keep my business at Kroger. Watch how that backfired on them. I waited until those items were on sale and paired them with my manufacturers coupons. I skipped off to Kroger excited to see my savings.

Cue the "buzz kill" manager. You see, when I got to the register with my seven or so items, the young man checking me out wouldn't let me use the coupons Kroger had sent me in the mail with the manufactures coupons. I don't give checkers a hard time about this. They are just doing their job and sometimes don't know the store policy well. I figure he was new so I politely asked him to call over the manager so that he could clarify the policy. Well the manager told me that they didn't allowing stacking. What???? I told him I had always stacked coupons at this store and inquired if the policy had recently changed. His reply was a cool "no, this has always been our policy" and then he walked away. Did he just call me a liar? Uh... yes.

What happened to "the customer is always right?"

I was bewildered. I had on a previous occasion taken the time to speak with the customer service desk about the coupon policy so that I knew what was allowed. Policies change but according to this manager, I was living in a fantasy world. I thought that maybe I could get a clearer answer from the Kroger corporation, so I wrote their customer service. Here is their confusing response with my little comments in blue for your amusement:

Thank you for contacting The Kroger Co. We apologize for your recent experience and we appreciate your inquiry regarding our coupon policy. For your reference, I am including a copy of the coupon policy for your region. Please note that this policy is our most current; however it is subject to change without notice. For further clarification of this policy, please speak directly to store management. (I did that and that is why I am writing you. Duh...) Please do not hesitate to contact us at 800.576.4377 if we can be of further assistance. Thank you again and have a nice day.

(Brace yourself...) The store manager has the right to accept, decline or limit the quantity of coupons or items used or purchased in a single transaction, by a single customer, or in a single day. (seriously? So if he doesn't like the way I look that day, I'm outta luck? This is insane!)

OK - the rest of the letter is their "policy". I use that term loosely because they obviously don't have any policy if a manager can override it at any time for any reason.

Double Coupons:
o Manufacturer coupons of $0.50 or less will be "doubled".
o Manufacturer coupons of $.39 or less will be "tripled".
o Manufacturer coupons over $.51 will be redeemed at face value.
o Limit one (1) coupon per household for each "like" item will be "doubled/tripled".
Pharmacy Coupons:
o Competitor pharmacy coupons are accepted.
o LCM or Competitor Coupons may not be used in conjunction with our $4 Generic Program.
General Coupon Policy:
o Limit one (1) manufacturer coupon per item purchased.
o Limit one (1) store coupon per item purchased.
o One (1) manufacturer and One (1) store coupon can be used on the same item.
(ah ha, here is my situation. Oh, but never mind, the manager hadn't had his latte that morning, so it all goes out the window)
o Coupons cannot be used on "free" items.
o Expired coupons are not accepted.
o Amount refunded cannot exceed the cost of the item.
We only accept printable coupons if they scan properly at checkout.
We do not accept "free product" printable coupons that have no purchase requirement.
Buy-one-get-one-free coupons and other values that have a purchase requirement are acceptable but will be MUCH less common than traditional value-off coupons.
We do not accept coupons for more than about 75% of a product's value without advance notice.
Legitimate PAH coupons will not be for a high value relative to the cost of the item. For example, a $2.00 off coupon will be acceptable for a product that normally sells for $5.00 or more, but a $2.00 off printable coupon for a product that sells for $2.25 is unlikely to be legitimate.
Coupons will be rejected if they appear out of proportion or blurry, or are obvious duplicates.
(blah, blah, blah)
Legitimate PAH coupons are never copied, sold, or traded. Nearly all coupons are "non-transferable," meaning they should not be photocopied or scanned and distributed to others.
Coupons will be rejected if they appear to have been altered in any way.
PAH coupons can be checked for validity at:
Lori Rump
Consumer Affairs

Dearest Lori - you could have saved yourself a lot of trouble by sending me the following letter which is more like the truth.

Dear Customer: I would love to give your our coupon policy, but the manager can override it at any time for any reason he wants. Sorry about that. Good luck using your coupons in our stores. Maybe ask your friends which of our stores are more coupon friendly or check with the staff to see if the manager is in a good mood that day.

Ugh... I'm seriously disgusted. More people than ever are using coupons and shopping carefully. This sort of sloppy policy turns customers away and word spreads fast in this electronic age. Kroger would do well to have a firm coupon policy and stick to it. That's something we can all appreciate and make use of. If a customer can't plan ahead and know how much they will pay for an item, then why bother to go into the store at all? That's one for you to ponder Kroger. Thanks for the coupons... I guess.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Getting the Details Right or The Story of the Outdated Doorknobs

After living in your home for a while, your eye passes right over things you might pick out when looking at a home to buy. One of those little details is the doorknobs. Recently, we changed out our back door and we picked new hardware to go with it. We chose a beautiful oil rubbed bronze. Suddenly all the shiny brass hardware in the great room jumped out at me as outdated. In redoing our bathroom, we changed to all oil rubbed bronze fixtures and the doorknobs jumped out at me again! The idea of purchasing all new knobs wasn't one I relished. The doorknobs weren't broken, so they weren't a priority. I was lamenting over this fact to my practical friend and she mentioned to me that she spray painted all her knobs and bathroom fixtures with marvelous results. Duh! What a great solution!

Rust-oleum Universal Oil Rubbed Bronze
 The next weekend I tackled the project and I'm happy to report that they turned out better than I expected! I removed the doorknobs, scuffed up the shiny finish with sandpaper, cleaned them off and then painted away. I did 3 light coats. Don't forget the screws. Just poke them into something like styrofoam so only the tops show. I also did the plates that screw into the door frame and door. While the hardware was off, I gave the doors a new coat of paint. It looks so fresh and new! I am pleased with the results and my friend assures me they have held up well to handling in her home. 

I used Rust-Oleum Universal Metallic in Oil Rubbed Bronze. Do this outside if you can because the fumes are awful. Every time I used the spray, I got a raging headache even though I was outside. I would suggest spraying and then moving quickly away to limit your exposure to the fumes. My son informs me that I have 30 more doorknobs to go. Guess what I'm doing for Spring Break! Yup! Happy updating ya'll!


scuff up the shiny finish with sandpaper

The finished product!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Spring Has Sprung (really early)

Our Louisiana satsuma in bloom
It's time to dust off the shovels and find our gardening gloves (which I badly need to replace). It is already unseasonably warm here in the Houston area. Want a sure-fire way to bring on a freeze? Plant your garden. It's too early, but I thought I would take a chance and get some of my herbs in the ground to give them a head start. I also grabbed a few tomato plants at my favorite gardening place, Nelson Water Gardens. They go fast around here. I'm going to attempt once again to grow tomatoes. It has been such a struggle for the past few years. However, I have a new tool in my arsenal of gardening knowledge. Pine Needle tea! No, no... I'm not serving this at my next party. It's pine leaves steeped in water in a bucket. The acidic tea is a treat for tomato plants (and parsley). I picked up this clever trick at a friend's garden class (thanks Bonnie!). Now to find someone with a pine tree that doesn't mind me coming and raking their yard. Really don't think that will be a problem in this area!
Here is what I have so far...

Large tomato for slicing and cooking

Small sugar tomatoes for salads

Rosemary and Thyme


Bell Pepper


Curley Parsley

Banana Sour Cream Bread

recipe imageWe had our dear Arkansas friends over this weekend. I like to prepare things ahead of time so that we can have time to enjoy our company. One of the desserts I prepared ahead of time was Banana Sour Cream Bread. A while back, I went on a crusade to find the best recipe I could. After trying many different recipes, I settled on this delicious one from All Recipes. The sour cream gives the bread a delicious tang and the dusting of sugar and cinnamon on the edge is wonderful. With a house full of teenager boys, ripe bananas are a rarity. When I do get one, I peel it and stick it in the freezer. If I don't use it for a smoothie, it might be lucky enough to end up in this amazing bread!
Banana Sour Cream Bread

Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 1 Hour
Servings: 32

Dust the pan with:
1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Bread Ingredients:
3/4 cup butter
3 cups white sugar
3 eggs
6 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 (16 ounce) container sour cream 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking soda
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Grease four 7x3 inch loaf pans (I use 4 mini loaf pans and 1 regular loaf pan). In a small bowl, stir together 1/4 cup white sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Dust pans lightly with cinnamon and sugar mixture.
2. In a large bowl, cream butter and 3 cups sugar. Mix in eggs, mashed bananas, sour cream, vanilla and cinnamon. Mix in salt, baking soda and flour. Stir in nuts. Divide into prepared pans.
3. Bake for 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Freezes very well.


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