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Friday, December 21, 2012

The Only One You Need

***Did you know... You can follow One Sassy Housewife on facebook and twitter now?!?! So if you find yourself wondering what I'm doing (probably taking pictures of my son) or thinking (probably something about marshmallows) at any given moment, you can stalk me in one or both of those places and find out. Hooray!

You know what I love about cookies? They are a bakery item I can't seem to mess up! Cakes, breads, brownies... all seem to go wrong for me... but cookies are simple and versatile. Especially when you find the right recipe. The right basic recipe can be tweaked for a different cookie and success every time... which is awesome!
This basic chocolate chip cookie recipe came from the America Cooks cookbook (yeah you read that price right-- no longer in print but highly sought after cookbook, it has the basic recipe for everything your grandma used to make...) which is another family heirloom kind of thing... that my parents stalked Ebay to find for me when I started cooking. (Similar story to the magnalite!)
 This particular recipe makes a small-ish size batch (about 16-20 cookies, depending on how big you like 'em.) of perfect crispy, chewy cookies. We like crispy chewy. But if you are a cake-y kind of cookie person, it's easy to tweak. Then when you are ready, through in your yummy bits of choice: Chocolate chips, M&Ms, nuts, crushed peppermints, dried fruit (craisins!)... so many yummy options.
The cookies pictured have white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts.
Another thing I love about this recipe, is it makes a smaller batch, so you don't have 4 dozen cookies when you just wanted 2 cookies for a snack... but it also doubles easily if you need cookies for a crowd. OR it freezes well if you want to make a double batch and freeze half for a rainy day. I recommend using your cookie scoop to make the individual balls, then throwing them in the freezer for about 15 minutes to flash freeze them, before throwing them in a ziploc bag (or other airtight container) for storage. You can keep them in your freezer for up to a month that way. When you are ready to bake (maybe just 1 or 2... or 8 or 12 at a time) just pull them out of the freezer and line them up on your tray while the oven is preheating, then bake and enjoy as normal.
(another thing... I like to bake my cookies on parchment paper... because, well you can see what my cookie sheet looks like. Is everyone's cookie sheet grubby looking? I kinda feel like that's a universal thing. Anyway... parchment paper! Cookies don't stick, don't burn as easily, and clean up is as simple as throwing away a piece of paper. Awesome.)
So are you ready for it? My secret cookie recipe... the only cookie recipe you need:

Chocolate Chippers

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup presifted flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate pieces

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease baking sheets (or line with parchment).
Cream shortening, sugars, egg, and vanilla in a mixing bowl.
Sift together flour, salt, and baking soda. Stir into creamed mixture, blending well. Add chocolate/nuts/candy.
Drop dough by tablespoons (I use a cookie scoop), two inches apart on baking sheet.
Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat at once.

*For cake-y chewy cookies, replace half the shortening with butter. For soft cake-y cookies replace all the shortening with butter.
*Use white, milk, dark, or mini-chocolate chips (or a combination!) in place of semi sweet chips! Also try M&M's, Reeces Pieces, or other crushed candies/candybars.
*If adding nuts, use only 6 oz chocolate, and 1/2 cup of nuts
*baking time does vary slightly based on what you added, just keep an eye on your oven for that first batch...

Now make yourself some hot cocoa and a batch of yummy cookies and share with your family this holiday! Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

DIY ChalkVinyl Calendar

Over the past year that I have been a full-time SAHM/home manager I have been slowly trying to implement simple organization methods to keep our family clean, sane, and on time. It's a slow trial and error process... organization is not a part of my God-given skill set. (That skill set does include... making adorable babies, enormous mess making capabilities, and talent for making marshmallows disappear.) Not everything I try works for us. But we are slowly moving in the direction of organization.
Which is why I felt like we should get a large calendar. I strongly considered a dry-erase calendar, but those things are ugly and I was trying to find place I could hide it from view-- which was kind of defeating the purpose of my calendar anyway...
Then I was at my friend's home and saw this awesome chalkboard calendar painted on her wall. "That's great!" I told her, "...but I would be nervous about painting that on my wall."
"Oh, it's vinyl," she replied.
Where does one get chalkboard vinyl? Turns out you don't need chalkboard vinyl. You can write on normal vinyl with chalk quite easily, and it wipes off with a rag or tissue. For real. I was amazed. And said I must have one. So I got to work.
I used some black vinyl I had on hand... I got it at the craft store a long time ago (I believe it was cricut brand though). And I cut it into 3" blocks. You will need 35 blocks total. I also put a title block at the top which was 3"x12"
As you can see I went high tech with a ruler and a rotary cutter... My fancy silhouette machine was buried, but if you have one of those... by all means, make it easy on yourself. But cutting squares is pretty easy to do by hand as well, so no stress if you don't have the fancy tools.
Then I got out my laser level (see the pink-ish line above the black blocks?) and my sewing ruler for spacing. Each of my blocks has a quarter inch between them. I would put them down, and sometimes the vinyl my stretch of land a little wonky, but it was easy to peel up and reposition until I felt good about it's position.
After making my first horizontal row of seven blocks, I continued on to the next, using my level and ruler (and some masking tape!) as a guide and spacer....
Until I had them all up... then I just wrote in days and numbers and a month title at the top with chalk. Easy peasy.
Oh! And I learned a chalk trick from pinterest...
You can use a pencil sharpener to make a nice point on your chalk for nicer writing. (WARNING: if you have any aversion to squeaky chalk... don't do it. It squeaks and screeches in ways that will make your teeth itch... but it does make for a much nicer writing and drawing experience.) Also I have heard (especially with colored chalk) you can dip it in water for smoother, quieter writing and bright color! I have not tested this method though...
So here is my calendar in my kitchen, in a nice prominent spot so we can't miss it, or the important events listed on it. (Sorry for all the shiny glare in the pictures. Don't paint tomato red walls in a semi-gloss finsh, okay? It's a bad and shiny idea)
This was about a 30 minute simple project that I am pretty happy with. It's been up since the beginning of the month, and has already been pretty effective... so as long as I can keep up with the month change, I think it's a keeper. If it's not, though... it's vinyl that peels right off the wall-- no harm in trying, amIright?
Even though this isn't hard to re-create, if you doubt your skills or time-commitment to the project, I found this chalkboard decal on Etsy.com that is super cute-- so you could let someone else do the work. Even better.
Do you have any awesome calendar methods or organizational tricks for your family schedules? How do you keep track of your family's events? Done any vinyl projects recently? Anything else you want to tell me about? Leave me a comment...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Simple Pretty Christmas Projects (Thanks pinterest!)

Just wrapped the first gifts of the season. Don't have wrapping paper yet. But I do have white boxes and pretty ribbon. Simple and pretty. So I think that worked.
Used this method to get pretty bows:

So pinterest was useful today.
Also, along the theme of simple, pinterest inspired, holiday stuff... This is what is happening with all the Christmas cards we receive this year.
(Those are my cousins chillin' there on the front, Hey guys!) In past years I have piled them up, or clothespinned them to ribbons on the doors... but that seemed like a lot of work this year. So when I saw this...

... I was like, DONE.
Trying to keep Christmas simple and manageable this year. (You can read more about that here, if you care...) So far... no meltdowns, so we are good.
So what about you? What kind of simple, pretty things are you filling your Christmas with this year?