Thursday, December 12, 2013

The EASIEST Way to Make Gravy or Sauce!

A few years ago, I wanted to learn how to make gravy because of numerous reasons, one being GRAVY IS YUM. I googled "how to make gravy from scratch" because how else do you learn how to do something? I found a lot of complicated recipes that called for making a roux by first sautéing flour in butter (which is harder than it sounds) and then adding liquid while whisking the pasty roux and blah-blah-who-has-time-for-that?
Over the years I discovered a REALLY easy way to make gravy and sauce so I'll share it here in case you ever get the craving for gravy or just for some gravy know-how (especially during holiday season!).

First start with some liquid and some form of fat (yes, I said FAT...it's gravy for crying out loud!)
Below I have the liquid left over from making a roast in my crock pot. You could also use water, melted butter, and a bouillon cube, or you could sauté something (onions, mushrooms, chicken, whatever) in some butter or oil (preferably not vegetable oil...because, ew.), then scrape the pan and add water to that. You want seasoned liquid and fat mkay? Bring it to a low boil or simmer.

Like so.
While your liquid is getting up to temp, grab some cornstarch. Ok, I realize that my super cheap box of cornstarch is not really healthy, BUT it's all I had! You could also use tapioca starch if you prefer. I don't really measure when I do this...it's all trial and error. It's probably 2:1 water to cornstarch, and really depends on how thick you want your gravy or sauce to be! Completely dissolve the cornstarch in the water so it has a milky consistency.
Now take your bowl of dissolved corn starch and slowly, SLOWLY whisk it into the simmering liquid from before. It should start to thicken immediately. Just keep pouring until you get the desired consistency, keeping in mind that the gravy will thicken as it cools. You don't want to get smart and think you can skip a step by pouring the corn starch directly into the simmering liquid. Nope, you can't. Well, you CAN, but you will end up in CLUMPY GRAVY CITY...and I really don't think that's a place you want to be.
You can let the gravy simmer longer to make it thicken more (the more water that evaporates out of the gravy, the thicker it will be). If it's too thick, you can always add water to thin it out.
Now pour it over your food and enjoy!!
If you are one of those people that NEED very specific directions...I'm sorry! Cooking for me is all about experimentation. Maybe the next time I make gravy or a sauce I will actually measure things and make an update to this post. Once you understand the basic concepts behind it, play around a little and figure it out on your own! It's not like cornstarch, water, and seasoning is going to break the bank!
Have fun!!
-Michelle

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

What I've been up to lately...

I've been absent from here for too long so I'll clue you all in to what I've been up to lately...

Waking up at 5am because Natalie is crying for me to nurse her. 
Falling back to sleep and waking up at 7:30 to a smiling, giggling little girl sticking her fingers up my nose or giving my cheek a hickey.
5 minutes later, seeing my other little smiling face say, "Mom, the sun came back!"
Hearing Steve groan and moan as the kids jump all over him.
Making breakfast (eggs and bacon are the best!) and drinking bullet-proof coffee (which I'll explain in another post) that Steve makes for me most mornings.
Hearing, "Mom, I need to watch a show." 100 times in 5 minutes and saying, "No, stop asking!" 100 times as well. 
Feeding and watering 4 very excited and (mostly) lovable dogs. 
Next is errands, or cleaning, or playing!
Examples: 
*Konnor hands me a purple hot wheels car* "Here mom, you be this one." 
*3 minutes later*
Natalie walks over to me and hugs my legs, she smells like poop so I have to postpone the hot wheels hide-and-seek game I'm playing with Konnor. 
"You gotta be kiddin' me mom!" 
"I have to change Nattie's butt, then I can play again!"
11 o'clock rolls around and Konnor starts screaming "Peg + Cat is on!" over and over while jumping on the couch. Also, he says, "I NEED ________!" (Insert: water, a snack, candy, to go pee, milk, cheese and turkey, to be nice to the dogs, to do that, to watch a moovie my craaazy mom.) about a thousand times.
All the while Natalie, who has become extremely clingy in recent weeks, is one of two extremes: either completely content playing alone in her room, or glued to your leg, screaming like a banshee until you pick her up. I don't think there's anything I can't do with a baby on my hip!
Trying to have an adult conversation for longer than 30 seconds without being interrupted or a crisis occurring. 
Lots of hugs and "I love you"s going around. Also, lots of "Do not hit your sister!" And "We don't eat paper!"
We make lunch, eat, Steve gives out kisses, and leaves for work. 
We play and learn and clean and make snacks and get 100 glasses of milk.
I wipe noses and butts and floors and tables and crayon off the walls. I herd the animals in and out of the house a thousand times. 
Then it is suddenly (or finally) 6:30, aka clean up time! We sing songs (clean up, pick up, put away...clean up, everyday!) and try to make a game of it, but sometimes it's just me doing 75% of the work and saying "It's clean up time! Clean up NOW!" over and over.
Then it's 7 o'clock and it's Konnor's movie time and Natalie's bedtime. After she's asleep and Konnor's movie is over, it's teeth brushing time and Konnor's bedtime. We say prayers and cuddle. Usually by 9:30, it's MICHELLE'S GROWN UP TIME! aka cleaning, frantically searching online for all the things I'd wanted to research during the day, but couldn't, watching something on Netflix that isn't a cartoon, or just going to the bathroom by myself with the door closed! Also, eating a piece of candy without having to hide in the closet while doing so.
Then Steve comes home and we tell each other all about our day. Usually Steve has really funny (or scary or sad) stories to tell and all I can say is, "I can't remember one thing that happened today!" And then it's bedtime for us.

Now that you're up to speed, welcome back! Hopefully I can start blogging again because I am bursting with things to write about, if I can find the time somewhere between singing that last lullabye and pouring myself into bed at midnight to do so!!

-Michelle

Monday, June 10, 2013

Surprise! Our First Video Blog!

About a week ago, on Facebook, I said we were working on something SPECIAL for the blog and now it's finally complete! We made our first video blog aka VLOG. Steve and I had been recording all week and had over an hour of footage! I whittled it down to a little over 13 minutes. I had to cut out some fun stuff like how we make our smoothies, building a worm compost, and building a couch cushion fort!

I apologize for the vertical format, these were all filmed on either my or Steve's iPod and we didn't even think about filming horizontally.
And for any Psych fans who read my blog, see if you can catch the Psych reference from Konnor!
Not going to type much else, since I'm speed typing this while Natalie naps.

Presenting...one week in the life of the Dixon family!!

p.s. you can click on the "YouTube" button at the bottom right of the video in order to watch this LARGER on Youtube! Either leave comments here, on Facebook, or on Youtube (YouTube comments must be approved by me :))


-Michelle

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Where Have All the Blogs Gone!?

There have been sooo many blog posts I've been wanting to write lately, but I just haven't been able to find the time! Natalie has entered the phase where she can't be set down for a second (and I can't sit down while holding her either, that's a no-no!) so most of my day involves holding her and trying to accomplish something (anything!) with my free hand. And no, this is NOT a request for parenting tips! I don't need to be told how I should let her cry it out, just put her down or you'll spoil her, etc. Mmmmkay? Ok.
Basically I'm just going to post a bunch of pictures I've been meaning to show you! I post a lot of pictures on instagram throughout the day, but I save some of them back specifically for blog posts!

 Here we have Konnor in mommy's flip flops, hat, and Natalie's pacifier...ready for a night on the town day in the yard!
 Natalie, all dressed up to go out!

 Here's that big hail storm you might have read about on Facebook. Yes, that's hail...not snow!
 All of this fell withing 30 seconds-1 minute!
 Decent sized too.

 Umm..ignore how I look here, I don't get a lot of "me" time, but look how cute Natalie looks!
 Konnor wearing Steve's work boots and his duty belt. I told him to "look mean".
 My little sunshine (who has taken to sucking on her fingers now instead of her thumb)!
Natalie with her "mowhawk" and me looking very "natural" lol. It's not so bad going make-up free, but my hair needs help SOON.

I have A LOT more blog ideas floating around in my head, hopefully I'll be able to find the time to punch a few out in the upcoming days!

-Michelle

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Artsy Craftsy Part 3: Painted Picture Plaques

Remember in Part 1 when I said I wanted to hang a bunch of pictures, but didn't want to spend the money on a bunch of new frames? You do? Good, because that's the same problem that sparked this project (that and Pinterest!). I went to Hobby Lobby and bought a bunch of these wooden plaques in varying sizes and shapes. They ranged from $1.50 to .75 cents, but if I had gone when wood crafting supplies were on sale, they would have probably been 40-50% off!
 I started by painting the entire plaque either blue or gray with acrylic paint and a sponge brush. Even though I knew the picture would cover the area I painted, I just painted it anyway...for fun? I'm not sure why, I just did! Moving on!

Then I used Mod Podge to stick the picture to the wood and to "seal" the picture and add a glossy top coat. I am a Mod Podge beginner and I don't know if it was because I used a foam brush or because I only applied 1-2 coats, but it dried very textured, like brush strokes.
For the irregular (ie: not rectangle) plaques, I just laid the picture on top of the plaque and made creases where the border was so I would know where to cut off the excess. Easy peasy.
 The pictures were kind of bubbly before the the Mod Podge dried, but they were gone after it dried. You can see some of the bubbles on Natalie's forehead on this one.
We also bought a baggie of little "wall hangy things" which Steve nailed to the back of the plaque so they could be hung to the wall. You could probably use command strips if you didn't want to put a bunch of holes in the wall. So this is the finished project!
So that's it for my Artsy Craftsy project series for now as I have ran out of money to buy supplies Haha!
'til next time...
Michelle

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Artsy Craftsy Part 2: Painting & Recycling Glass Bottles

First of all, Hubert's Lemonade is awesome. Secondly, I love the simple, rounded shape of the bottle. I love clear glass bottles, jars, etc, because the simplicity is so beautiful to me. However, I also love colored glass. I saved a few of the lemonade bottles to put flowers in once spring came, but then I was on pinterest and saw pictures of PAINTED glass bottles. Boom, inspiration.
Steve and I took the labels off and the sticky-yuck stuff off with some homemade goo-gone. I wasn't planning on making goo-gone at midnight, but a quick pinterest search gave me simple directions (equal parts oil and baking soda. Yupp, that's it.)
My living room colors are blue, gray, and white and I already had some blue and gray paint from a different project. I used acrylic paint because that's what I had, but if you were planning on putting real flowers in the bottles, I would suggest using enamel paint instead (because it's waterproof). I used far too much paint on the first bottle because I didn't have a good technique. I used way less on the second. Just squirt some paint and hold the bottle so the paint goes all the way to the bottom, then turn it on it's side and let it move across the bottle until it pretty much stops. Watching paint move is a slow process and takes patience, but it's also kind of relaxing to watch in my opinion. After it stops, add another long line of paint and repeat until the bottle is covered. Gravity is your friend when trying to cover little missed spots without adding extra paint.
This is the first bottle I did with lots of missing spaces.
After they were completely covered, I turned them upside down on a small tupperware container. I saved the extra paint and put it back in the paint bottle. It didn't stain the tupperware either.

Ta-da! Here's two of them. This was SO. SIMPLE. I did this while both kids were awake if that tells you anything.

Here's the finished project. Those white flowers weren't my first choice. I originally wanted one white gerber daisy in each bottle, but WalMart didn't have any and I didn't have the time or energy to go to Hobby Lobby. Now that I'm looking at the picture, the flowers in the two bottles on the right are too high. I need to cut them down to match the one on the left. And yes, it bothers me that the bird and the blue bottle don't match exactly, but I love that little bird (Hobby Lobby, $4 with 40% off coupon). I think I'm more of a perfectionist than I thought after re-reading that paragraph. Oops.
And there it is. I think the shelf is a TAD too high on the wall, but Steve hung it without consulting me first. I'm not really going to complain though, I'm just happy that he got it hung up at all. There is no stud above the tv so we had to use some finagling to even get that shelf up (haha, I say "we" like I had anything to do with it). Also, ignore those cords that are showing everywhere!! Ugh.

This whole project cost probably $3? The lemonades are about $2 each, but that's including the actual lemonade which I didn't use on the project. The two bottles of paint are .78 cents each and I used maybe 1/4 of it on each bottle. The stupid flowers were the most expensive at $3, but I only used half of them.

Overall, I love how this turned out. Simple, yet beautiful.
Hope you like it!

-Michelle

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Artsy Craftsy Part One: Glitter Clothespin Hanging "Collage"

This is the beginning of my "crafting series". If you don't already know, I'm obsessed with Pinterest. I used to be creative when I was a kid, but I think old age just robbed me of every creative bone I had in my body! Now I need Pinterest to get the creative wheels spinning. Well, except on this first project. I came up with this one all on my own! I wanted to have a collage of Steve and I on the wall in our bedroom, but I didn't want to buy a bunch of frames (cheap) and I didn't want to just tape pictures to the wall like my 14 year old self did. So I came up with a pretty simple plan. First, I went to Hobby Lobby and bought some clothes pins, mod podge, and gold glitter, and black string (I already had the black paint). Then I did this:
I love glitter. Then I found one picture from each year Steve and I have been together (not counting 2013), made them black and white, and printed them off. Steve hung the string for me and I hung up the pictures in order.
And that was it! I want to add some more to it, like a romantic quote above the pictures on the wall, but that's a craft for another day. It takes me SOOOO long to complete a project that would take someone else one day. I can only do about one step of the project once every couple of days because the kiddos don't let me do one thing for very long. Including this blog post! I'm writing as fast as I can while Konnor eats a snack and watches The Cat in the Hat and Natalie is napping.

That's all for now!

-Michelle

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The "Kansas Children's Museum"

During Steve's vacation from work, well, the last 3 days of it when he wasn't in debilitating pain, we tried to cram in as many activities as we could! One thing we did was take Konnor to the Kansas Children's Museum. It sounds a lot fancier than it is. I don't even think it's a museum, it's more of a play area than anything else. Don't get me wrong, it's an awesome place, but a museum it is not, in my opinion. It's an old movie theater at the mall that has been converted into a huge play area for kids.


The whole place is divided into "stations", including a music station, fire trucks, trains, dress up, crafts, puppets, and more!



I think Konnor liked playing in the kitchen/house the best. He set the table, made food, put all the dishes in the washing machine...lol!


Feeding a hamburger to the Grinch!

Konnor paying for his purchases in the "store".

Here is Konnor checking out the train tables while Natalie and I look at a little card board play house in the back.




Natalie was having fun cuddling with me...





The Doctor's office...

Digging for dinosaurs!

Konnor and Steve both holding babies! I uploaded these pictures from my iPod so they got all out of order and I don't have the energy to rearrange them right now.
That was our day at the "museum". I think it's a really neat little place for kids to play and learn and I'm sure we will be going back soon!

-Michelle
(It was such a struggle to write this post...mostly because of technological reasons! I apologize and will never try to post from my iPod again!)

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Throwback Thursday: My Best Friend's Birthday!

Yesterday was my best friend's 27th birthday! We were born 17 days apart and have been friends for 15 years (which means I've also been addicted to Diet Coke for 15 years haha)! We met during the Fall of 1998 when we both tried out for cheerleading. I had to go to her house one day to work on something...a project? A routine? I can't remember now, but we've been friends ever since!
Here we are summer of 2000 on our trip to California! My dad had this brilliant idea to DRIVE from Michigan to California with 4 teenage girls. Smart. Haha, actually it was extremely fun and I will never forget that trip!
Here we are at Cedar Point making a really, really bad decision with those corn rows! My scalp was BURNT to a crisp after that day!
Us at prom our Junior year of high school.
On vacation once again, but this time we are at Disney World in Orlando, FL for a band trip. Yes, we were in band, BUT we played percussion so we were awesome. Haha!
And here is us being weird which was basically our normal selves. I was trying to find more of these, but this is the only one I could find! We lived in a small town and in a neighboring town, about 20 miles away, there was a K-Mart that had one of these picture takers outside of it. I was pretty much obsessed with that machine! I would make special trips to that town just to use it!

So HAPPY BIRTHDAY Julie, I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane. Also, I was thinking...we have been friends for longer than we haven't been friends. Isn't that CRAZY? Geez, we are getting old.

-Michelle

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Throwback Thursday, Vday, and the Flu!

Oh crap. It's Throwback Thursday AND it's Valentine's day AND I still have the stomach flu (not as bad as it was yesterday though!)

Let's see what I can dig up here on my computer because I feel too sick to get up and go digging through actual photos and then have to fire up the scanner, blah blah blah.

This was Steve and I about 5 years ago! We were so young and shiny! Haha! He was my Valentine then, and he still is today <3 br="">
And here are my Valentine's #1 and #2 They fill my heart up with SO MUCH love it's crazy! <3 br=""> I hope everyone feels the love today be it from a significant other, child, friend, sibling, parent, or pet!

-Michelle


Friday, February 8, 2013

Ready...Set...Boob!

So I know that the title of this post is a little "risqué", what with saying "boob"and all, but it's something Steve says sometimes when he hands me the baby to feed her and I think it's hilarious. Or he will say "1, 2, 3...boob!" Hahaha... Apparently it's not even politically correct to say "breastfeed" anymore, you are supposed to say "nurse". Well, you all know how I'm a stickler for the rules!

 I know that this post isn't going to be for everyone because not everyone breastfeeds, (especially not the men who read this blog!) BUT I thought even if you don't breastfeed, you might have a friend or relative who does, you might do it in the future, or you might have a significant other who does or might in the future! Besides, knowledge is power so learn something new today!

I guess maybe for some people, breastfeeding is super easy from the get-go, but for me it's challenging in the beginning, even for baby #2. Not only did I have to remember what to do, I had to teach a new and completely different baby how to do it too. In the beginning, having one small latching problem can really cause some damage, but to me, it's worth the early struggles. because nursing can be such a challenge, especially for first-time moms or second time (or 3rd, 4th, 5th lol) moms who want to try breastfeeding, here are some "tips" that I found can make things easier!

Tip #1 Milkies Milk Saver
If you have no experience with lactation at all, then you are about to learn something new! Did you know that nursing mom's experience something called "let-down"?  It's what happens when the milk is released down to the nipple so the baby can access it. Even when the baby is only nursing on one side, milk lets down on BOTH sides and can leak out of the non-nursing nipple. Some women have a stronger let-down reflex than others. Some women don't leak any milk at all and some can leak between 1-4 oz during one feeding session! So what's a nursing woman to do while feeding her baby? She can either let the leaking milk soak her bra and shirt, she can wear nursing pads, OR use a milk saver!


I just recently learned about the Milk Saver and I love it. I'm one of those women who waste about 1-2oz of milk every time I feed the baby from the non-nursing side. I got sick of wasting milk and wasting money on so many nursing pads. This Milk Saver cost me $25 on Amazon.
It comes in this really nice (high quality) carrying case...


Before you start nursing, you put the Milk Saver on the non-nursing side, inside your bra or tank top. I think you can tell from looking at it where the nipple goes. Then you feed your baby like normal and the milk saver collects the milk from the other side instead of it being soaked up in a nursing pad and thrown away. The Milk Saver is made from some kind of silicone or something and it "sticks" to your skin, making a nice seal so no milk leaks out!
You can also take that square piece off and attach it to a milk bag if you leak more than 2oz at a time. I've been saving tons of milk this way without having to pump! Woo-hoo!

The carrying case also doubles as a stand so there is no crying over spilled milk!
The only negative things I can say about this are: don't forget that you have it in your bra after you nurse the baby! If you do forget, and you lean over to put the baby down, you will spill milk all over the baby and the mattress... I haven't learned that from experience or anything! lol.
Also, it seems to stretch out my bras or tanks a little bit, but they go back to normal after a little while. I bought mine on Amazon, but you can learn more at www.MyMilkies.com

Tip #2 GASP! Nursing is public!
I am super modest while nursing in public. I have mastered the art of being discreet. I used to use one of those huge, obvious nursing covers. Now I can't stand it! It makes what you are doing so obvious and it was awkward to work with. So how do you nurse without a huge cover, but still stay covered up? I have the answer!

The worst part about nursing in public, in my opinion, is having your back and stomach showing when you lift your shirt! I hate having any skin showing like that. A lot of women wear nursing tanks under their regular shirt so when they lift their shirt, the nursing tank covers their skin and they can still access what they need to access. Nursing tanks can be expensive though, at the least the ones that are of decent quality.

Well, here's what I do to fix that problem. I went to K-Mart during the beginning of Fall and bought a bunch of TUBE TOPS for about $1-$2 each (on clearance)! I just put the stretchy part of the tube top just underneath my bra (you could wear it regularly, but I found it squished me too tightly "up top") and let the flowing part cover your back and stomach. Then I wear a regular shirt over the tube top! Everything is covered AND accessible at the same time for a very low cost!

 Ok, so that's not my real bra in the picture, it's my one and only nursing tank, but you still get the point (I hope!). With this set up, all I use is a light receiving blanket while getting her latched on and after that, between the tube top, her head, and my shirt, everything is covered!

The reason this post took so long to complete was that one picture above! It took me forever to get that picture taken!

Ok, I hope this helped someone! Sorry I don't have any tips for bottle-feeding moms. I know of a few tips, but I figure that bottle-feeding moms already know those tips so it would be dumb of me to try and share them! I'll just stick to what I know!

'til next time...
-Michelle

In case you missed it, I got a whopping TWO positive responses (the only responses) for the Beauty Tuesday idea, so I'm going to do it!!