August 31, 2012

An Update on the Sale of Our House


Many of my regular readers know that we put our house up for sale in the spring.  And some of you have been asking me about it, especially in light of our Year of Less.

The short story is that our listing ran out today, and we've chosen not to renew it.

With each child we've had in our little starter home, visitors and friends have commented that we'll need a bigger house.  Which each child, the pressure grew...we need more space for all of these kids.

And at some point, we started accepting that. We can't live in a tiny house with all these kids, can we?

But then we started the year of less, and we began to remove the layers of clutter that had collected in our home.  And we realized something: we don't need more room, we need less stuff!

We've given away a lot of stuff.  Between clothes and kitchen items and toys and  books we have gotten rid of thousands of items. We have less furniture, less linens, less laundry, less stuff!  And all the space we need.

So 6 weeks ago we decided that we would be content whether the house sells or not. And around that time, the phone stopped ringing completely. Not a single showing.  I don't know if it's a God thing, or the slow market, but to us it seems pretty clear; we aren't going anywhere just yet.

Plus, now that our basement is no longer being used to store things we don't need we are talking about finishing it.  That would give us all the space we could ever need, no matter how large our family grows.

That's not to say we aren't going to try to sell again at some point. It's just that we are choosing to be content here until God calls our hearts elsewhere.

And it's a good place to be.


So there you go, that's what's happening with us! Oh, and I'm super excited to not have to be constantly trying to keep the house showroom clean and to spend my time instead messing the house up with some fun craft projects and culinary adventures!

August 27, 2012

How to Make a Fabulous Apple Pie {and some pretty great memories too!}

Use three different types of apples. The variety in texture and the differing degrees of sweetness and tartness all mix together to make a delicious pie with no two bites exactly the same.


Use real butter in the crust.  You won't regret it



Let little hands crimp the edges...


And make a mess.



If you've got a two year old handy, let him sprinkle the crumb topping.


Bake and share with the people you love.



{The Recipe}

The Crust:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp cold water
  • 1/2 Tbsp white vinegar
Combine flour and salt. Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles course crumbs.  Mix together egg, water and vinegar,and stir into dry ingredients until a soft dough ball is formed.

Wrap dough in a clean damp tea towel and place in the fridge while you prepare the filling and crumb topping.



To make the filling, stir together:
  • about 12 apples, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • a dash of salt
For the Crumb Topping, crumble together with a pastry cutter or your fingers:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

To assemble pie:
  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Roll out your pie dough and place in pie plate.
  3. Dump filling in pie crust.  Cover with crumb topping.
  4. Put pie on a cookie sheet (to catch any drips) and cover with tin foil (to keep from browning too quickly).
  5. Bake for 50 minutes, remove tin foil and bake for 10 minutes more.
  6. Let pie cool a little.  Serve with good vanilla ice cream.  Enjoy!

Thanks so much for visiting The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking

August 13, 2012

How to Cook Bacon in the Oven


If you are pregnant/queasy/a vegetarian and grossed out by the sight of raw meat, you might want to click away.  Go visit this funny site and come back here another day.  I promise my next blog post won't include any photos of raw animal flesh.

When I mentioned on my other blog that we had given up paper towels, the single biggest question I received from readers concerned the draining of greasy bacon.   Baking your bacon in the oven not only allows the bacon grease to drip away (no paper towels needed!), but it also turns out perfect strips of evenly cooked bacon-y goodness.  Plus,  it allows you to make way more bacon at a time than will fit in a frying pan, which comes in handy if you have a table full of hungry little breakfast monsters!

Place a cooling rack on a baking sheet, like this:



And then lay your bacon on it. 


Then place the baking sheet in to a cold oven and turn the oven on to 350 degrees.  It's best not to preheat the oven for this.  Bake for approximately 20 minutes, but it honestly takes a different amount of time every single time I do it,so check your bacon often.

You don't need to flip it, but I always do because I have a compulsion to flip, stir and generally prod at the food I'm cooking, whether it needs it or not.

When it is brown and beautiful but not burnt, remove it from the oven.  All of the grease will have dripped down to the pan and you will have a rack full of perfectly cooked bacon. 


And if you pour the grease off the pan before it cools completely, clean-up is a cinch!

Thanks so much for visiting The Complete Guide to imperfect Homemaking!

August 8, 2012

How to Make Never-Fail Oven Fries


As part of our Year of Less we aren't eating out for an entire year.  (The Rules state that we may go to a restaurant if invited as part of a social occasion.  Note to all of my real-life friends: please for the love of all that is slathered in special secret sauces, please hold your next birthday at a restaurant.  Please....)

Anyways, sometimes a girl just needs some french fries, ya know?  Some really good crispy on the outside but soft on the inside and just a tiny bit too salty french fries. Here's how I get my fry fix without leaving home.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Slice your potatoes into strips.  I really like red potatoes for this, but any potato you have on hand will work.


Now this is the secret to really good oven fries:  Drizzle the potatoes with both olive oil and melted butter.  I've tried them with just oil, and just butter, but it's the combination that makes them so super awesomely good. Trust me on this.


Sprinkle them with a coarse salt like kosher salt or sea salt.  Use a fair bit of salt. Potatoes need salt.


Now stir all your butter and oil and salt and potatoes so that the potatoes are evenly coated.  Grease a cookie sheet with a tiny bit of olive oil and lay your potatoes out on the cookie sheets.  A little bit of overlap is okay, but try to have only one layer of potatoes so that they can crisp up nice.  You might need two cookie sheets.


And I know that some of you are going to think to yourself "the potatoes are greased, so I don't need oil on the pan" but you really do, because if you don't oil the pan all your delicious crispy edges will end up stuck to the pan instead of your french fry. I always regret it if I don't take a moment to grease the pan.

Bake the fries at 400 degrees, turning and flipping and shaking them a bit every 5 minutes until they are golden brown on the outside and soft inside.  This will normally take a total of about 20-30 minutes.


Taste (when they aren't mouth-burningly hot anymore) to make sure they have enough salt, and serve.  Enjoy!


Please let me know if you try these.  I would love to know what you think!

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August 3, 2012

Tie Dye Play Silks


As part of our journey to simplify our lives, we are deliberately choosing good open-ended toys for our kids, things that can be used a million different ways and encourage imaginative play.  Also, I'm choosing crafts and activities for the kids that result in real items they can use, play with, or give away.  No more paper plate crafts hanging out on my kitchen counter! (Truth be told, I never liked paper plate crafts anyways.)

So tie dying play silks was two birds with one stone.  A fun activity for a sunny afternoon, and a simple open-ended toy for imaginative play!

We used 35" square silk scarves from Dharma Trading Company and a Jacquard tie dye kit.  I picked this kit because it included the soda ash dye fixer, which helps fabrics to absorb and retain the dye.  Any kit you get will come with instructions....but I'll take you through a little photo tutorial of our project.

You start by soaking the scarves in water.


Then you wrap and twist and fold the scarves to your liking, and bind them with elastics.

 

You dissolve the soda ash in a bucket of hot water.


And soak the scarves in it for 20 minutes.


While the scarves are soaking, mix up the dye. If you are like me you will think that there is no possible way you could get dye on your hands just mixing it up, and you'll be wrong.  And then you'll have to take the kids to their scheduled check-up at the doctors office with tie dyed hands.

So don't be like me.  Wear gloves, silly! 


Let your kids spray dye all over themselves, the deck, and the backyard in general.  Ummm, I mean, the scarves.


Wrap up the scarves in something so that they don't come in contact with anything you ever want to use again.  I reused the bags that the scarves came in for this purpose.  Let sit for 24 hours.


The next day, rinse the scarves and then wash and dry them.  If our neighbours weren't already pretty sure they lived next door to hippies, they are now.


So far our play silks have been used as doll blankies, teddy bear diapers, super hero capes, nativity costumes (look mom,I'm just like Mary from the bible!), picnic blankets, fort walls and props for a 5 year olds impromptu theatrical dances. And we've only had them for a day and a half!


Thanks so much for visiting The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking!
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